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Nassau unlikely to block ride-sharing law before Thursday launch

A driver displaying Lyft and Uber stickers on

A driver displaying Lyft and Uber stickers on his front windshield drops off a customer in downtown Los Angeles on Jan. 12, 2016. Credit: AP

Nassau County is unlikely to opt out of the statewide ride-sharing law before it takes effect next week, officials say, meaning services such as Uber and Lyft will start operating legally before any local effort to further regulate them.

The county’s Taxi and Limousine Commission recommended opting out in a report Monday, but County Executive Edward Mangano continues to study the issue, his spokesman, Brian Nevin, said Friday.

Neither Mangano, a Republican, nor the GOP-controlled county legislature has introduced a bill necessary to block legal ride-sharing, which launches statewide on Thursday. Counties, however, can opt out any time thereafter.

“There is an ongoing public safety discussion with no” resolution, Nevin said.

Frank Moroney, a legislative majority spokesman, said: “there’s no consensus yet.”

Westchester County legislators have scheduled a special meeting Wednesday to consider an opt-out bill. Lawmakers there cite many of the same concerns as Nassau, including that the state Department of Motor Vehicles — which will oversee ride-sharing — will not conduct its own driver criminal background checks with fingerprinting.

Like in Nassau, Westchester has debated regulating the services as for-hire vehicles, or “black cars,” to subject them to local registration and licensing requirements, including more detailed driver checks.

Because the state law bars local governments from layering additional regulations on ride-sharing, the counties would need to get Uber, Lyft and others to agree to become black car services with physical offices in individual towns, cities and villages. They would also have to obtain different kinds of insurance policies than what the state ride-sharing law mandates.

Uber and Lyft operate as black car services in New York City, which was exempted from the state law. But company officials note that this setup — in which the city’s TLC regulates them as it does other for-hire vehicles — is not the norm.

“We’d like to operate as we do in the rest of the state and the rest of the country,” Josh Gold, Uber’s New York policy director, said of Nassau.

Suffolk County has no immediate plans to opt out of ride-sharing. Officials there had concerns over a loophole in the state law that would have allowed the lowest tier of sex offenders to drive for the services beginning seven years after their convictions. But state lawmakers this week passed legislation addressing the issue.

In Nassau, the candidates for county executive support ride-sharing, but have still used it as an issue to challenge each other.

Democrat Laura Curran on Friday called on Republican Jack Martins to co-sign a letter asking Mangano not to opt out of ride-sharing, saying, “residents want it and it’s good for our local economy — it’s a no-brainer.”

Martins supports a state bill to create a county ride-sharing surcharge to fund Nassau’s bus system. His spokesman said Curran “shows her inexperience when she pulls political stunts” instead of lobbying state lawmakers for the surcharge, which has not gained approval.

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