Once more around the block with Uber, Lyft
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