Once more around the block with Uber, Lyft

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - Wear

Sit­ting there in a cramped Capi­tol hear­ing room last week, I ex­pe­ri­enced a feel­ing of deja phooey.

As I lis­tened (twice!) to de­bate over a pro­posed ride-hail­ing law — and fin­ger­prints, drunken driv­ing, sex­ual as­sault, apps, in­no­va­tion, lo­cal con­trol, Uber and Lyft — the whole thing had a dispir­it­ing fa­mil­iar­ity. The cast of char­ac­ters was rec­og­niz­able too.

There were Austin City Coun­cil Mem­ber Ann Kitchen and Mayor Steve Adler for the (city) de­fense; the preter­nat­u­rally com­posed Lyft ex­ec­u­tive April Mims; folks from Hous­ton city gov­ern­ment; law en­force­ment try­ing to thread the nee­dle be­tween en­dors­ing fin­ger­print­ing but not chas­ing off the big­gest ride-hail­ing com­pa­nies; Moth­ers Against Drunk Driv­ing stand­ing up for ride-hail­ing’s pur­port­edly mag­i­cal ef­fect on drink­ing and driv­ing; state Sen. Charles Sch­w­ert­ner and state Rep. Chris Pad­die speak­ing for Uber.

Oops. I mean, speak­ing for the con­cept of rea­son­able and con­sis­tent statewide reg­u­la­tion of a highly por­ta­ble ser­vice, which al­lows users to sum­mon a driver-for-hire us­ing a smart­phone app. Pay no at­ten­tion to those 40 Uber and Lyft lob­by­ists over there be­hind the cur­tain. Or, in this case, the back of the hear­ing room.

One way or the other, I’ve been lis­ten­ing to all this for three years and, through me and other re­porters, so have you. It’s hard not to think: Hey, just de­cide it, al­ready.

In case you missed it, the Se­nate Busi­ness and Com­merce Com­mit­tee on Tues­day had hear­ings on Se­nate Bill 176 from Sch­w­ert­ner, a Ge­orge­town Repub­li­can, Se­nate Bill 361 from state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jack­sonville, and Se­nate Bill 113 by state Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dal­las. Then, on Thurs­day, the House Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee heard tes­ti­mony on House Bill 100 by Pad­die, R-Mar­shall. There are no­table dif­fer­ences among the bills, but what they all have in com­mon is that cities would be banned from reg­u­lat­ing ride-hail­ing ser­vices and the

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