Texas House OKs Statewide Ride-Hailing Rules, Defying Austin

AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas House 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.

After a few hours of debate about HB 100, the House gave the initial green light to enact a statewide law.

"Statewide regulation for TNC has become the best practice across the country," said Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall.

Paddie's bill brings Transportation Networking Companies, or TNC's, under Texas regulators' control, while requiring them to pay fees to the state.

The bill requires annual background checks, but not fingerprinting, which has been at the core of much of the debate in Texas and across the country.

Efforts to tack on language that would require, or make optional, fingerprint background checks failed.

"We need to make sure that we're protecting citizens of this state and at least allow the cities to protect their citizens so we don't have people getting in the car with folks they shouldn't be getting in the car with," said Rep. Yvonne Davis. D-Dallas.

Paddie stood firm in his opposition to fingerprints, saying he didn't believe they'd make TNC's safer.

Another amendment that was squashed aimed to level the playing field for traditional taxi's to compete with the increasing popularity of ride hailing companies.

Taxi companies have been critical of Uber and Lyft's refusal to operate under Austin's fingerprint rules.

An amendment that did pass, defining 'sex' as the physical condition of being male or female as it pertains to ride-hailing. 

"I just want to define what 'sex' means to keep, clean, clarification for drivers, owners of the business and customers," said Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington.

In the end, the House overwhelmingly approved the bill -- fingerprintless.

Paddie says 41 other states have a framework for how to regulate TNC's, and that none of them require fingerprint background checks. He added that 20 cities in Texas currently regulate them at the local level.

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