Another round of sparring between Texas cities and car service companies like Lyft and Uber played out on Tuesday before a panel of Texas lawmakers. The proposal that was debated — which would let cities regulate Lyft and Uber the same way they regulate traditional taxi companies — would have the opposite effect as a bill another House committee considered last week to strip cities of that authority.
The House Urban Affairs Committee heard public testimony on House Bill 3358 by state Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, which gives cities oversight of all commercial transportation services, expanding their control of taxicab and limousine services to include transportation network companies like Lyft and Uber.
“This bill is about fairness — period,” Lucio said. “If they’re going to provide the exact same service, whether it’s on a part-time basis or not, it should be done fairly.”
Representatives for both companies criticized Lucio’s bill, saying a patchwork of unique city regulations would stifle their innovative business model.
April Mims, public policy manager for Lyft, said applying taxi regulations to transportation network companies was “forcing a square peg into a round hole.”
But traditional cab companies, whose business practices are highly regulated by cities, argue that Lyft and Uber should have to play by the same rules as everyone else.
Ed Kargbo, president of Yellow Cab Austin, said allowing Lyft and Uber drivers to operate without city background checks was like allowing doctors or lawyers to practice without a degree just because they work part time.
I believe we are all familiar with the arguments by now. I oppose this bill for the same reason I oppose the other bill – it should be up to cities to decide how to regulate vehicles for hire, as they have always done. As I said before, I think it would be appropriate for the state to set minimum standards for insurance and background checks and the like, but in the end it should still be up to cities to decide if and how to open their doors to these services.