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House “Uber Bill” Creates Statewide Regulation on Ride-sharing

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This week, the Texas House will take the stage in the nationwide drama involving ride-sharing.

The effort has turned members of each party against each other. Indeed, even the conservative Republican Texas Freedom Caucus, often referred to as a “third party,” is divided on the issue.

In the last several years, the free-market has responded to the rising costs and low availability of taxis by providing companies such as Uber, Lyft and others which link needy riders with nearby drivers, via cell phone apps, for low prices and rapid service.

Taxi unions are feeling threatened and have reacted with intense lobbying efforts at local and state levels to regulate their competition out of town.

Note this Washington Post headline from 2014:

Cab companies unite against Uber and other ride-share services

In a recent committee hearing, the CEO of Texas Taxi testified that regulations on ride-sharing are needed for public safety reasons. Sen. Charles Schwertner responded, asking, “Is it about public safety or about protecting your turf?”

Austin, Texas made headlines in 2016 with their own ordinance which resulted in the departure of Uber and Lyft from the city.

Free-market conservatives were furious.

At the time, Schwertner vowed to file legislation to undo these regulations saying, “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.”

This session, he made good on his promise, filing SB 176.

Sen. Robert Nichols also filed a bill and his, SB 361, has already made it out of committee. It should be headed to the floor for a full Senate vote at any time.

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