After a lengthy debate among lawmakers over the best way to regulate services like Uber and Lyft, the Texas House backed a proposal that would override local regulations concerning ride-hailing companies.
House Bill 100, by state Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, would establish a statewide framework to regulate ride-hailing companies and undo local rules that the two companies have argued are overly burdensome for their business models. Cities enacting such rules say those regulations bring a needed layer of security.
As of mid-morning Wednesday, 79 members in the 150-member House — including Paddie — had signed on to the bill as authors or co-authors.
“HB 100 is not about a particular company or any particular city,” Paddie said Wednesday on the House floor. “Statewide regulations for transportation network companies have become the best practice across the country.”
His bill was tentatively approved by the lower chamber in a 110-37 vote after representatives tacked on several amendments, including one that seeks to define “sex.” The measure needs final approval from the House before it could be considered in the Senate.
At times, the debate over the bill appeared to veer into one of the most contentious topics this session at the Capitol: gender identity. In the Senate, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has prioritized a “bathroom bill” that would require transgender people to use the restroom in some places that matches their “biological sex.”
On Wednesday, state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, successfully amended the ride-hailing bill to define “sex” as the “physical condition of being male or female.” The amendment, which passed 90-52, drew some concern from Democrats, who questioned whether it was a way to exclude a certain group.
“I can assure you that it is not my intent,” Paddie said, adding that he accepted the amendment because he views it as “further defining something that’s already defined.”
HB 100 would require ride-hailing companies to have a permit from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and pay an annual fee to operate throughout the state. It also calls for companies to perform local, state and national criminal background checks on drivers annually — which would override an Austin ordinance.
See here for the background. Two related Senate bills were heard in committee, with SB361 by Sen. Nichols getting passed out. I don’t know what to make of the “biological sex” amendment beyond the continued obsession of certain zealots. What’s more important is what do Uber and Lyft, who have been pushing hard for a statewide rideshare bill, think of it?
@uber @lyft Don’t let #TXLege force you to discriminate! #hb100 #LetEqualityRide #YallMeansAll
— Equality Texas (@EqualityTexas) 2:35 PM – 19 Apr 2017
Well, Uber and Lyft? What do you say? Those of you who use Uber and Lyft, what do you want them to say about this? I would recommend you tell them. Maybe this will get stripped out going forward, but that almost certainly won’t happen without some pressure. Now is the time to bring it. And kudos to the members who pulled their support for this bill in response to the needless amendment.
The Chron adds some details.
The bill would give oversight of companies that connect willing drivers and interested riders via smart phone to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. The companies that operate the smart phone app and process payments between the riders and drivers would pay a $5,000 annual licensing fee, and certify that its drivers meet a number of requirements already common among the companies.
Uber and Lyft have aggressively sought state rules in Texas because of their opposition to city requirements, notably Austin and Houston. In Austin, both companies left the city after new rules that included fingerprint background checks went into effect nearly one year ago.
As with the contentious fights at the local level, discussion also focused on requiring the fingerprinting of drivers. The companies vigorously oppose fingerprint background checks, favoring their background checks based on Social Security numbers.
Numerous attempts to require fingerprint checks or allow cities to require them failed as amendments to Paddie’s bill.
“We should not take chances with any life,” said Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, noting many professions in Texas are subject to the fingerprint background check.
Paddie deflected the requests for fingerprints and efforts to allow cities to require more strenuous permitting, noting fingerprints can’t predict future behavior.
“We have 150 teachers in this state under investigation for improper relationships with students,” Paddie said.
Seems like you could use that reasoning to justify a lot of things, but whatever. I feel like one way or the other, something is going to pass. As I’ve said, I’ve basically resigned myself to that, but I still don’t approve of the assault on local control. I hope this winds up being the outer edge of that assault, but I’m less than optimistic about that. The DMN has more.