The Texas Legislature has passed a bill that would pave the way for Uber and Lyft to return to Austin after they pulled out last year because of what they described as onerous regulations.
The legislation was approved by the Texas Senate on Wednesday after passing in the House in April. It would overrule an Austin ordinance that required ride-hailing companies to screen their drivers. The proposed state law would still require ride-hailing companies to conduct criminal background checks on drivers, but it would roll back the fingerprinting requirements that Uber and Lyft objected to and that Austin had long enforced on taxi and limo drivers.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign the bill into law, according to the Austin Monitor,
Uber and Lyft have both said they plan to resume operations in Austin as soon as the state bill goes into effect.
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Both Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner criticized the legislature's move. Turner, whose city has also passed stricter local ride-hailing regulations, describing it as “another example of the legislature circumventing local control to allow corporations to profit at the expense of public safety.”
Supporters of the bill said uniform statewide rules were the appropriate way to regulate ride hailing.
Uber and Lyft spent millions of dollars fighting to overturn the Austin ordinance, which was initially passed in 2015. When that effort failed, they announced a year ago that they would halt operations in the city. That led to smaller startups filling the ride-hailing void.