As the legislative session came to a close, Texans in one city were granted an immediate reprieve from their municipality’s protectionist transportation regulations.
Although the 85th Regular Session left much to be desired, Capitol City residents can at least be grateful for the signing of HB 100 – which sets a statewide regulatory framework for Transportation Networking Companies (TNCs), thereby allowing ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft to resume operations effective immediately.
The statewide framework eliminates the patchwork quilt of regulations around Texas by preempting all existing local ordinances – such as the prohibitive ordinance that Austin foisted on its residents a little over a year ago.
After a contentious trial period imposed via city council fiat, Austin City Council decided to put the protectionist regulatory structure to voters in the form of a confusing, triple-negative ballot proposition. The proposition passed – although not without becoming the subject of a lawsuit due to the confounding language. Citing the expense of complying with the new rules, companies such as Uber and Lyft were forced to cease operations within the city.
Since then, Austinites have found themselves relying on the smaller, less-robust alternative transportation services that have operated during this de-facto moratorium period – many of which featured faulty apps, misrepresented prices, and during periods of high demand (such as festivals), service blackouts.
With HB 100 taking immediate effect, Uber and Lyft resumed operations in Austin. Signing the bill, Gov. Greg Abbott even made special mention of Austin’s particularly onerous restrictions.
“This is freedom for every Texan — especially those who live in the Austin area — to be able to choose the provider of their choice as it concerns transportation,” said Abbott.
In fact, it is largely due to Austin’s regulatory hubris that state lawmakers felt compelled to take action at all. This should serve as a lesson to the “local control” crowd – as local-level bureaucrats demonstrate a tendency to abuse their authority, they will find it more and more narrowly defined.