The debate over regulating companies like Uber and Lyft looks likely to move from the local to the state level in Texas, although how big a discussion it will be remains to be seen.
On Sunday, the day after Austin voters soundly rejected a measure to overturn city protocols for ride-hailing companies, a top Republican state senator announced he will file legislation next year “designed to establish consistent and predictable statewide regulation of ridesharing services.”
The Legislature convenes in January.
“It has become increasingly clear that Texas’ ridesharing companies can no longer operate effectively through a patchwork of inconsistent and anti-competitive regulations,” said state Sen. Charles Schwertner of Georgetown, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, in a statement.
“Any legitimate safety or liability concern regarding ridesharing clearly deserves to be addressed, and I welcome all parties to engage productively in that discussion," the statement read. "But as a state with a long tradition of supporting the free market, Texas should not accept transparent, union-driven efforts to create new barriers to entry for the sole purpose of stifling innovation and eliminating competition.”
Uber and Lyft have said they will cease operations in Austin on Monday following the failure of Proposition 1, a referendum that would’ve overturned rules the City Council approved last year that — in part — will require drivers to undergo fingerprint-based background checks by next February. The companies, which have permanently or temporarily pulled out of other Texas cities that have passed similar regulations, spent $8.6 million on their Austin campaign, making it the most expensive in city history.
Other state GOP officials expressed similar free market-based concerns on social media Sunday, indicating that Schwertner's measure may gain newfound traction in the Republican-dominated Legislature. Last year, legislation that would've blocked Texas cities from regulating ride-for-hire services stalled.
“Liberalism has consequences,” Land Commissioner George P. Bush wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday, becoming the first statewide official to weigh in on the outcome of the Austin vote. “Austin claims to be a forward-thinking city ... This is what happens with liberalism — the government wins and the people lose.”
Disclosure: Uber and Lyft have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.