Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Where does Texas' sharing economy go from here?!? (Also: #TROXROX)

"And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.
Mark 2:22

This afternoon, TPPF held a policy orientation panel entitled "Where does Texas' sharing economy go from here?!?"  #atxcouncil member Ellen Troxclair was joined by Senator Don Huffines and representatives from HomeAway and Uber.  The panel touched on past unpleasantness before examining the future for Short term rentals and transportation.

Senator Huffines opened with a discussion of economic liberty, explaining "I believe in the free market."  Senator Huffines decried incumbent industries "legislating away their competition" and pointed out that taxi companies did so "decades ago." Councilmember Troxclair echoed the point and reminded that the legacy taxi industry showed no interest in reducing their own regulatory burden during the discussion in Austin two years ago.  The Uber representative stated that, while their primary goal was regulatory certainty for their business, they'd love to takes a "deregulate the taxis" approach but that the taxi companies were the ones who wouldn't come to the table.

On short-term rentals, the HomeAway rep was optimistic about their chances to pass a bill next session.  Because other cities beyond Austin have begun to abuse their authority, she believed legislators who hadn't previously given the issue much thought were coming around.  She also pointed to Florida and Arizona as states with the best short-term rental laws.  For our part, we pointed out during Q&A that the only reason this bill failed last session was because it was referred (and ultimately killed) to a house committee with a Democrat committee chair who had been a previous president of the Texas Municipal League.

Council member Troxclair called Austin's current STR regulations "completely ineffective."  She pointed out that four properties were responsible for an inordinate amount of the complaints under the old rules.  She also explained that STR regulations weren't actually eliminating short term rentals, but simply driving them underground (which means that the spend-a-holic city government loses a source of revenue).

Other obvserstations:

  • Uber "very concerned" about potential sick leave mandate from the City of Austin.
  • Uber hoping to deploy early stage aerial vehicles in DFW in 2023; will require significant interface with the FAA.
  • Last session, lege passed a bill to pre-empt municipal regulations on autonomous vehicles.
  • 96% of auto collisions are driver related; autonomous vehicles eliminate almost all of them.
    • Note: This is why autonomous vehicles are way, way, way safer than traditional automobiles.
  • Uber began to investigate using their platform for search and rescue purposes after Hurricane Harvey.
  • Short Term rentals typically have longer stays, and more repeat business, than traditional hotels; this frequently makes STR guests more respectful of the surrounding neighborhoods than comparable hotel guests.
Bottom Line: For as much as it fell short, last session's Uber bill was nevertheless an important signal to the marketplace.  More work remains to be done, but Texas is already an attractive place to do business.  If we can preempt future municipal debacle like the 2016 era unpleasantness in Austin, some really exciting things are going to happen (especially in transportation) over the next few years.

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