Bill another long shot aimed at eliminating overlap of bureaucracy | NevadaAppeal.com

Bill another long shot aimed at eliminating overlap of bureaucracy

by John L. Smith

If you didn’t know better, you would think that actually reducing the size of government was like the weather. Everyone talks about it and makes predictions, but no one is capable of making it rain or shine.

Once an agency has been established, it takes more than an act of Congress – or in this case, an act of the state Legislature – to change its status. It takes political will and an ability to bring together groups with conflicting points of view.

Given that difficult reality, it will be interesting to see whether the Legislative and the Gibbons administration have the political focus to finally fold the Taxicab Authority and Transportation Services Authority into one cohesive unit. Sources confirm a bill draft on the subject is being prepared.

The Taxicab Authority regulates licensees and drivers in Clark County. The TSA was created in 1997 and enforces “passenger transportation, household goods movers, and tow cars.”

Although the technical differences between the two agencies are clear enough, the bureaucratic overlap seems pretty obvious.

In Clark County, cabs are TA turf. Limousines are under the TSA’s jurisdiction. At McCarran International Airport, it’s common to see a Taxicab Authority officer near the cab line and a TSA official nearby policing the limousines. The cabs and limousines are often owned by the same companies.

Now, say you board a flight to Reno and call for a cab or limousine. There’s no Taxicab Authority up there, just TSA. Confused yet?

And if you thought a taxi cop could probably handle a limousine inspection, you’re beginning to see what some people call a duplication of service.

Will it ever change?

If recent history is a fair barometer, the answer is no.

In the 2005 session of the Legislature, the Assembly Transportation Committee considered the merits of Assembly Bill 285, which called for abolishing the TSA and transferring “its duties to various governmental entities.”

Daryl Capurro, the managing director of the Nevada Motor Transport Association, which was a driving force behind AB 285, argued federal deregulation eliminated some of the TSA’s duties, and the attempt to regulate everything from tow trucks to moving van companies simply hadn’t worked.

He also argued the TSA was incapable of doing sufficient safety inspections.

Then AB 285, sponsored by rural counties Assemblyman Rod Sherer, proceeded to be flattened like a jackrabbit on U.S. 95.

Limousine owners rushed to the TSA’s defense, lauding it for its professionalism and efficiency. Without the TSA, some argued, there would be little or no safety inspection of charter buses.

“For us to suggest that we should somehow eliminate all regulation of charter buses is courting disaster,” said attorney Jeffrey Silver, who represented Ryan’s Express and Bell Transportation.

It got worse from there. Government officials and representatives of everything from the American Automobile Association to the Public Employees Retirement System criticized the bill.

Although some called the agency “out of control,” high-powered speakers praised its performance and even called for its budget to be increased.

The net result was one dead bill.

Two years later, there’s a new attempt in the works to combine the state government agencies.

Here’s what I’ve heard about one plan under consideration: Combine the two agencies and create a five-member board of commissioners with three in the south and two in the north. The consolidation in theory would generate savings by eliminating many mid-level positions in the two agencies.

In concept, efficiency would be increased and government would shrink.

You would think it would win a lot of support from Gov. Jim Gibbons and members of the Legislature, but let’s watch what happens to the idea in the coming days and weeks.

The challenge for the Gibbons administration will be to prove it’s willing to listen to more voices than the ones emanating from the governor’s friends and political benefactors at the Nevada Motor Transport Association. For legislators, the challenge will be to find a way to do what probably should have been done years ago – consolidate the two agencies without losing regulatory credibility and oversight.

Let’s see whether the 2007 effort beats AB 285’s record and at least makes it out of committee.

Can government get smaller without abandoning its responsibility?

It might be easier to make it rain on a cloudless day.

• John L. Smith’s column, reprinted from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, appears on Thursdays on the Appeal’s Opinion page. E-mail him at smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295.