TNC regulation bill gets hearing in House committee

Regulating ridesharing companies in Austin

AUSTIN - The Texas House Committee on Transportation held a hearing Thursday on House Bill 100 which will create state regulations for Transportation Network Companies (TNCs)), getting rid of current city regulations.

HB 100 will require TNCs be permitted by the state, pay an annual $5,000 fee to operate in Texas and, perhaps most notably to Austinites, allow companies to conduct their own background checks.

Background checks have become personal to people in Austin.  

"Uber and Lyft thought they could win an election and I suggested to them in Austin they would lose 60-40. In reality they lost 56-44," Austin Mayor Steve Adler told the Committee. 

Adler explained why the companies stopped operating in the Capitol City while he was testifying against the bill.

"They wrote their own ordinance, went to the voters and said please approve this," Adler said.

That ordinance was included in a 2016 petition that forced an election over TNC regulations.

The city council had passed an ordinance requiring fingerprint background checks for TNC drivers; something Uber and Lyft didn't want to comply with. To battle it, the companies pushed the petition to overturn it but Austin voters rejected Proposition 1, siding with the council. Many said it was the voters way of sending the message that Austinites won't allow companies to come to town and right their own rules. 

"I'll be the first to tell you as a company, Prop 1 was not our best moment at all," Uber Public Affairs Lead Trevor Theunissen told the committee during the hearing.

But Theunissen and a representative from Lyft spoke in favor of the bill, saying it will allow them to operate in more Texas cities.

Still Adler said those cities should have some say.

"When you talk about personal liberty in a community, getting together, there's no more direct measure of that I think than actually a direct vote of the people. We didn't ask for that. Uber and Lyft asked for that in our community and elections have consequences," Adler told the committee.

While he is against the bill, a member of his own council, Ellen Troxclair, testified in favor of it.

"Y'all are missing the forest for the trees, by focusing in on this one component of safety when you're talking about fingerprinting when what you're not seeing is for every minute that somebody is left out on the street without a safe ride home they are at a greater and greater risk of being victimized" Council Member Troxclair (District 8) said.

The Committee did not vote on the bill and instead will come back to it. There are also three bills filed in the Senate aimed at doing the same thing. 

Follow reporter Ashley Goudeau on Twitter for updates on House Bill 100: 

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