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Uber, Lyft Might Turn to Texas Legislature to Overrule Austin Ridesharing Vote

Republican state senator plans TNC regulation bill that would override local rules, while business leaders fret over the message the city is sending to innovators

Following Saturday's defeat of a proposal that would have lessened regulations on ride-hailing companies and the subsequent departure of Uber and Lyft from the city, Austin Mayor Steve Adler had nothing but soothing words for the people. In a statement issued yesterday, he laid out a seven-point plan for filling the transportation gap and keeping former transportation network company drivers employed—including the intriguing possibility of working with a local nonprofit TNC.

Some tech leaders, meanwhile, fretted in the Austin American-Statesman that the proposal's defeat would hurt Austin's reputation as a good place for start-ups and an industry leader.

Predictably, state legislators were also quick to weigh in. Democratic Texas Senator and former Austin Mayor Kirk Watson issued an statement that, in a bit of a stretch, compared Uber and Lyft's actions to those of Mel Brooks in The Producers, a film in which a play that's intended to flop is a hit. Except, you know, the opposite, in this case.

After noting the poor community decision-making process by which Prop 1 came to be and, like Adler, calling for more open discussion on the matter, Watson recounted how some state legislators immediately decried the local election and vowed to fix the matter—to "overturn the 'tyranny' of a local election," as he put it.

Georgetown Republican state Senator Charles Schwertner has announced that he plans to do just that, according to Houston Public Media. Schwertner said he will file a bill to create statewide regulations for TNCs—laws that would override local rules governing those services, including those in Houston and Austin.

That reaction probably won't surprise many longtime Austinites, who have seen their share of legislative hostility toward the capital city over the years, and Lyft already laid the groundwork when it met with Lege leaders during SXSW 2015 in an attempt to get (presumably more lenient) statewide TNC regulations in place to take precedence over local laws. That year, state Rep. Chris Paddie proposed a similar bill (HB 2440), reports Houston Public Media; it was approved by the House Transportation Committee but did not get a floor vote before the end of the legislative session.

Statement Regarding Next Steps After Prop 1 Election [Mayor Adler website]

Austin tech industry debates next moves after Prop 1 vote [AAS]

Top State Senator Threatens Bill To Override Local Rules On Uber, Lyft [Houston Public Media]