Uber On its Way Back to Austin

Texas Legislature decides state law is better than local overreach.


Driven out by the heavy hand of local government, Uber and Lyft will almost certainly be returning to Austin and a handful of other Texas cities because of the lighter hand of the state.

After bouncing back and forth between bills and chambers, the Texas Senate Wednesday passed House Bill 100 superseding local regulations with an annual fee and a permit from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

The key to the bill was the absence of a requirement that drivers for ride-sharing companies be fingerprinted as part of their background checks. The stipulation caused Uber and Lyft to leave several Texas cities, including Austin after a bruising citywide referendum that cost both sides as much as $10 million.

Texas joined 40 other states regulating ride hailing services at some level. Gov. Greg Abbott confirmed in a Twitter message Wednesday night his intention to sign the bill, which would become law June 1.

Trevor Theunissen, spokesman for Uber Texas, said the company intends to return to Austin with Abbott's signature.

"We are especially grateful for the leadership of Rep. Chris Paddie and Sen. Charles Schwertner for their commitment to creating new economic opportunities all Texans can benefit from, Theunissen said. "An environment that allows rideshare companies to operate across the state will help create more earning opportunities and improve mobility options in both big cities and rural areas in Texas."

Lyft spokesperson Chelsea Harrison, endorsed the legislation, offered no timeline for the company's return to Austin.

The bill's passage was by no means a complete victory for free market ride-sharing. The Texas House originally had its choice of bills, each crafted to wrest control of regulation from overreaching cities like Austin.

Only the bill by state Sen. Don Huffines (R-Dallas), was written to insure that neither the state nor local governments interfered with the market for ride-sharing service. Huffines' bill never made it out of the Senate.

"While House Bill 100 is an improvement on the status quo, it remains a missed opportunity to foster innovation." Huffines said Wednesday. "Government regulations are a poor substitute for market forces and personal responsibility. I trust millions of Texans to make better decisions than 181 state legislators in Austin."

HB 100, however, is a vast improvement over regulations in cities like Austin, whose City Council stubbornly insisted its fingerprinting requirement was a matter of public safety while providing no proof of it anywhere in the country.

After some early ride-sharing chaos, several smaller companies, including a city-promoted non-profit attempted to fill the breach. The result, among other things, was a complete shutdown of the handpicked ride-sharing company of Austin's internationally known SXSW on its opening weekend.

Schwertner, R-Georgetown, said his bill will bring an end to the chaos.

"Over 40 states in this country have already acknowledged these realities and chose to enact a consistent, predictable system of regulation that licenses TNC operators at the state level," he said. "This bill is about protecting the safety of our constituents, as well as economic liberty."

NEXT: Senate Committee Wants Comey's Testimony and Memos on Trump (UPDATE: Special Counsel Appointed)

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  1. Uber and Lyft should stay out of Austin for five years to punish the leftards.


    1. But what if…they are “leftards”…themselves…

      1. Then they have Stockholm syndrome.

    2. Don’t believe it will work – you’re talking out of it enough to pass such a thing to begin with – to the degree that the leftards were even responsible. I was in on the effort to get the Austin ordinance overturned. I think quite a lot of the left was in on it as well. The prime forces behind it appeared to be the taxicab industry, and a middle aged city councilwoman obsessed with defending the lives of her “children”, eg the adults of this city, from evil rideshare drivers going to rape them. She does have some bizarre partnership with the city council’s leading leftard.

      I’m generally a leftard myself – but Austin’s are often truly weird.

      1. No edit button. “You’re talking about punishing the people letardish enough to pass such a thing to begin with – to the degree that the leftards were even responsible.”

        1. Edit buttons violate the 1st amendment, says reason.

  2. The important thing is that there’s a fee.

  3. Nice article.

    But is the Governor expected to sign it?

    1. RTFA:

      Gov. Greg Abbott confirmed in a Twitter message Wednesday night his intention to sign the bill, which would become law June 1.

  4. So how do we feel about a “higher” (well, at least bigger) level of government restricting the freedom of a more local government?

    1. I personally with the government that is more on the side of individual freedom. Honestly I mostly really value federalism for practical purposes as an outlet for idiots to screw up their own localities rather than screwing up everyone else’s too.

      1. Agreed. As an Austinite, I very much appreciate the state stepping in here. This was a case of one councilwoman leading a charge that led to something like 11% of the population deciding what the rides are rules should be for the rest of us.

        1. That representative government is working out really well for us.

      2. ^ Yep. Federal, state, local government, they can all assault your liberties in horrendous ways. Yes, theoretically, it is easier to change laws at the local level, but any restriction of government action should be applauded. I don’t think it makes sense to get in a huff about it or to treat federalism as a principle. At best, it’s a system that incidentally constrains power or makes government more tolerable for more people; it is not at its core about limiting govt action or solving the two wolves/one sheep problem of democracy.

    2. restricting the freedom of a more local government

      Only individuals can have freedoms; governments take them away. And the Austin city council can be more tyrannical than the state government on a lot of issues.

      If it results in Uber coming back to my hometown, I’ll take that outcome.

    3. Shackford is crying in his cocktail over the loss of local government authority.

    4. AOK! I would invite even a supranational gov’t or ET overlords doing it, as in the movie The Monitors?good, albeit not great, flick; I haven’t read the book it was based on & named for. I don’t care how liberty is achieved. No style points, just results.

  5. It just gets better and better:

    Trump Team Knew Flynn Was Under Investigation Before He Came to White House

    WASHINGTON ? Michael T. Flynn told President Trump’s transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, according to two people familiar with the case.

    Despite this warning, which came about a month after the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn of the inquiry, Mr. Trump made Mr. Flynn his national security adviser. The job gave Mr. Flynn access to the president and nearly every secret held by American intelligence agencies.

    The investigation stems from the work Mr. Flynn did for Inovo BV, a Dutch company owned by Mr. Alptekin, the Turkish businessman. On Aug. 9, Mr. Flynn and the Flynn Intel Group signed a contract with Inovo for $600,000 over 90 days to run an influence campaign aimed at discrediting Fethullah Gulen, an reclusive cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and whom Mr. Erdogan has accused of orchestrating a failed coup in Turkey last summer.

    When he was hired by Mr. Alptekin, Mr. Flynn did not register as a foreign agent, as required by law when an American represents the interests of a foreign government.

    B-b-b-b-but Hillary!

    1. Fuck off, troll.

    2. And what does this have to do with Uber or Austin?


      1. And what does this have to do with Uber or Austin?

        Since when do people stay on topic at Hit & Run? What are you, a statist?
        I now return you to your 20-comment thread.

    3. I just want to be clear, here. Anyone who goes ahead an knowingly nominates someone under federal investigation for an office that has access to all American secrets has been proven unfit for public office, right? That’s the standard here?

      Wow, it’s going to be fun seeing all 20 Democratic Governors, 45 Senators, and 117 Representatives who voted at the convention in 2016 to nominate Clinton for President removed from office for breaching that standard.

      1. The Cheeto nibblers are appalled!

      2. Also:

        B-b-b-b-b-but Hillary!

    4. Re: DanO.

      B-b-b-b-but Hillary!

      Yep. We dodged one corrupt, sleazy bullet by stepping in front of an orange-hued speeding train.

  6. Sooo happy now in Austin!

  7. This is a good example of why Reason and their brand of ‘liberaltarianism’ makes no sense. Essentially, what Texas has done is exactly what NC did with their ‘bathroom bill’. Both bills overruled a local government’s overreach and reestablished the status quo (in NC Charlotte had passed a law mandating bathroom policies for local businesses and the state law overruled that allowing businesses to determine bathroom policy themselves). Yet, with regards to Texas, this is awesome, but for NC it was horrible (which was a position that never really made much sense).

    But, I guess all is fair when it comes to the only remotely libertarian thing that Reason will fight to the end to defend: Uber.

    1. There are two questions here. One is whether the outcome is preferable from a libertarian view and the other is about process. Thinking about outcomes, the NC ‘bathroom bill’ is bad and the Texas Uber bill is good from a libertarian perspective. But what about process? Is pushing laws down as far as possible always the right libertarian choice? Should cities be able to have their own criminal codes, for example? How about neighborhood associations — should they then be able to override the laws of the city? In the U.S. we have multiple levels of government (nation, state, county, township, city), and sometimes there are government entities that encompass and overlap others (regional water authorities, school districts, park districts, historical district). Is there a libertarian principle determining which entities should prevail when there are disputes?

      1. I fail to see how the NC bill was bad. It allowed private businesses to make their own bathroom policies, while maintaining the status quo at government facilities

        1. It’s because Reason doesn’t want to offend Trans people. You can see it in plenty of news stories. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them start using the ‘x’ pronouns any day now. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and in fact it would be preferable to their current nonsense pronoun usage.

    2. Did Reason condemn the NC bathroom bill? I thought I remembered the writers being sympathetic at least with the provision protecting rights of property owners to see their own bathroom policy.

      1. Scott reports on it, therefore he hates it. And he offered no reasons to dislike the state bill other than it hurt trans’ feelings. IT IS KNOWN

      2. Shackford made some concessions to property rights but also said that NC should not have overruled the city government and thought it was a violation of valuing local control that conservatives should adhere to.

  8. A nice demonstration of how red states make their blue cities more livable places for us libertarians by restraining some of the worst impulses of our prog neighbors. Here in Ann Arbor, the state government has saved us from the local taxi cartel (even before Uber, most ‘cabs’ were state-licensed limos rather than locally controlled cabs) and, just recently, a county-wide shopping bag tax was killed by a new state law.

  9. From the link, regarding the Austin fingerprinting nonsense that set off the whole idiocy in Austin:

    “Despite their SXSW stumble, Fasten CFO David Piperno told the Business & Commerce Committee his company believes in fingerprinting. So does Regina Radulski, vice president of operations for GetMe LLC, one of the smaller ridesharing companies that moved into Austin when Uber and Lyft left.”

    Yeah, these companies are ‘for’ the requirement because without it the superior services would (and are) going to move back into Austin and reveal them for the local crony-capitalists that they are. Their entire business relies on keeping the bigger companies out. Now, in a more competitive market, we’ll see if these ‘locally created non-profit startups’ can survive when their shitty services are put side-by-side with a proven market success story.

    I do hope, as an aside, that Uber and Lyft are forced to compete with more than just each other as well. I have nothing in particular against these local start-ups beyond the fact that their service utterly fails. That’s the one measure of success that really matters for the people using them, non-profit or for-profit alike.

    1. The main developers are now working on Swarm City, as an etherium based comerce platform that does include ride-sharing as an option.

      Also check out Cell411. Although it is more of neighborhood/cop watch, it does have ride sharing built in.

      1. For more information on Swarm City, see the recent Vin Armani show podcast, episode 29. The second half in an interview with Mattew Carano, who runs a communications ‘hive’ for Swarm City.

  10. I live in Austin and I like both Uber and Lyft, but I voted against their proposal because they spent a fortune on very misleading accusations and the rules they proposed gave them the right to impede traffic in ways that would be illegal for other drivers. The streets of this city are already impossible to navigate even when we all follow the agreed rules of the road. There was more to the story of Uber’s demands than was widely reported by their supporters.

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