AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — The Texas Senate has voted to create statewide regulations for ride-hailing companies, potentially voiding a local Austin ordinance that caused Uber and Lyft to stop operating in the state capital.
Given final approval 20-10 on Wednesday, the bill brings ride-hailing companies under Texas regulatory control and imposes fees.
The bill previously cleared the House, which included tea party-backed language defining “sex” as the “physical condition of being male or female.” That’s a reference to the Legislature’s contentious “bathroom bill,” which is separate legislation regulating transgender Texans’ public restroom use.
The Senate preserved that language. Sponsoring Sen. Charles Schwertner, said, “it’s stating the obvious.”
Uber and Lyft left Austin last year, protesting an ordinance requiring drivers to be fingerprinted in background checks. The bill requires annual background checks, but not fingerprinting.
“A statewide framework for ridesharing will help bring greater economic opportunity and expanded access to safe, reliable transportation options to more Texans,” said Sarfraz Maredia, General Manager for Uber Texas. “We look forward to making Uber available in more cities across Texas and continuing to serve drivers, riders, and the communities in which they live.”
“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,” said Trevor Theunissen, Public Affairs Lead for Uber Texas. “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.”
Lyft spokesperson, Chelsea Harrision said, “Ridesharing in Texas took a tremendous step forward today. Thank you to Senator Schwertner and Representative Paddie for defending consumer choice and all the stakeholders who have helped create safer roads and expand reliable, affordable rides for Texans. On behalf of the entire ridesharing community, thank you to all of the legislative champions who have helped guide this bill through the capitol.”
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)