Tuesday, April 18, 2017

#TXLEGE: House Uber Bill > Status Quo

"The Lord has made all for Himself,
Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom."
Proverbs 16:4

LoneStarVoice peruses the Uber bill set to be voted on in the House tomorrow and finds it lacking:
  • Bans cash transactions. Presumably, the state is interested in keeping records of all transactions for taxation purposes.

  • Bans large vans and sports cars. All vehicles must have four doors, and a seat capacity of no more than eight.

  • Mandates government-run background checks. Rather than allowing the company to run checks on its employees like most companies in America, this bill mandates each employee be submitted to local, state, and federal background checks. Interestingly, some of the same Republicans who oppose universal background checks on gun sales over privacy concerns are supporting this bill.

  • Interferes with internal disciplinary measures. If a driver is even accused of driving while intoxicated, the bill mandates that he or she be locked out of the system until an investigation has been completed. But additionally, it requires the investigation records be kept on file for two years after the incident.

  • Requires dangerous pick-ups. The bill requires drivers to pick up anyone soliciting a ride, regardless of what part of town they are in. If a driver has reason to avoid certain areas, he or she will have the choice to go there or face a penalty.

  • Requires companies to direct riders to competitors. If a rider is physically disabled, and the ride-share company cannot provide a wheelchair accessible vehicle, under this bill, they will be required to find another company that can, and direct the rider to that business.
In addition to the criticisms listed above, LSV also raises concerns about a $5000 fee TNC's will have to pay to the state.  In the abstract, we agree with these criticisms.  There's a reason why SB 113 (Huffines) is the only bill on which we testified in favor.

But we don't live in the abstract...and we see nothing in the bill that's a dealbreaker.

It's the difference between obnoxious regulation (bad but not disqualifying) and something truly awful and unworkable (eg. the Austin ordinance).

Specifically, consider the background check provision:
(2)  conduct, or cause to be conducted, a local, state,
 and national criminal background check for the individual that
 includes the use of:
                    (A)  a commercial multistate and
 multijurisdiction criminal records locator or other similar
 commercial nationwide database; and
                    (B)  the national sex offender registry database
 maintained by the United States Department of Justice or a
 successor agency; and
              (3)  obtain and review the individual's driving record.
As a point of comparison, we would excerpt the similar provision from the Austin ordinance, but it's three pages.  You can read it for yourself here.  We might not be crazy about either, but there's a significant difference between using one paragraph to set a broad requirement with wide leeway for how to fulfill it compared to three pages micromanaging the entire process.

The fact that the House bill is 3.5 pages, compared to 12 pages for the Austin ordinance, is revealing.

And that's before you consider that TNC trips often cross jurisdictional boundaries, so that standardization is beneficial in and of itself.

It's not a secret that the Texas legislature's commitment to free enterprise is...conditional at best.  It would be nice if that weren't the case, but it is.  Given the underlying reality of who controls the legislature, we fail to see how HB 100 is anything other than a significant step in the right direction.

In terms of letter grades, we'd give the House bill a "C."  While we'd give the Huffines bill an "A," we'd also give these local ordinances an "F."  In a choice between living in a "C" reality or living in an "F" reality, we'll choose the "C" reality.

Bottom Line:  This isn't the bill we would have written, but we see nothing disqualifying.

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