Legislation could bring Uber and Lyft back to Austin

Uber and Lyft could be making their way back to Austin even though the city voted them out. A bill was filed this week, that if passed, would give the state the right to regulate ride-sharing companies.

The ride-sharing fight now heads to the state legislature, which will determine the fate of Uber and Lyft in Austin.

"The convenience of it is amazing and I would love to see it back, absolutely," says Lauren Newkirk, former rider.

On Monday, Georgetown State Senator Charles Schwertner filed a bill that would place statewide oversight on transportation network companies. If passed, it would preempt local ordinances.

"I think we'll have improvements in mobility, improvements in safety and also improvements in the economic lives of individuals that are participating in this industry as drivers," says State Senator Charles Schwertner, (R) Georgetown.

Schwertner says 34 states have enacted some sort of state-wide ride-sharing legislation but points out that none have instituted finger-printing as a requirement.

"I certainly believe that we should look at drivers through a very vigorous federal background check. They should be insured, they should not have a criminal background but the provision of arbitrary barriers just to support one industry, in this case the taxi industry, is really just uncalled for," says Schwertner.

Back in May, voters decided to keep city rules that require drivers to undergo fingerprint-based background checks. Uber and Lyft shut down operations in Austin shortly after and other ride-hailing companies took their place. 

Austin Mayor Steve Adler says we've had a lot of success.

"We have the only operating open market in the world. So we're seeing innovation and new companies that are coming into play. So we're doing something that's right," says Mayor Adler.

But some consumers feel like they aren't up to par.

"A lot of times it's cost prohibitive with surge prices during certain events. Or it takes forever for somebody to accept your request. So it's not really been my jam lately," says Monica Alcantara, former rider. 

"Going out in general has dropped way down and when I do, I have to be extra thoughtful and really plan my night a lot more," says Newkirk.

Either way, Mayor Adler says the state has the prerogative to regulate if it wants to. He's looking forward to being part of the conversation.

Council Member Ellen Troxclair has been an active voice in this fight. She issued the folliowing statement on Wednesday:

"I'm glad that the legislature has recognized a need for a statewide ride sharing policy.  Having a patchwork of laws across municipalities is confusing to ride sharing providers and customers. When crippling local regulations impact free enterprise, consumer choice, and the economy, it is appropriate for the state to take action. Local control is valuable as a means for individual liberty, but when it is used as a tool to undermine that liberty, it's no longer serving a useful purpose."

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