Texas Lawmakers Assess the Impact of the Sharing Economy

By HOJUN CHOI
Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Ridesharing photo courtesy of Lyft

Ridesharing photo courtesy of Lyft

State lawmakers will discuss and hear testimony about the future of Texas’ sharing economy industry at the business and industry committee meeting at the state legislature on Wednesday.

Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, the chairman of the committee, told Silicon Hills News that the meeting comes from a need to better understand and recognize the impact that startups like Uber and AirBnB have on Texas’ economy.

“Technology and the sharing economy is forcing us to rethink how we meet our priorities. We want to encourage the use of technology to find new, often cheaper, ways to deliver goods and services,” Oliveira wrote in an email. “At the same time, we want to make sure all competitors are playing by the same rules, and none are gaining an advantage by evading safety standards, taxation or employment requirements. Technology is forcing us to rethink how we balance these priorities.”

The meeting comes shortly after the hotly debated vote over Austin’s Proposition 1, which led to the two largest ridesharing companies in the country, Lyft and Uber, GetMe and Wingz. Several companies and organizations that were invited to speak at the hearing told Silicon Hills News that they will be watching from the sidelines.

Michael Leto, Founder and CEO of RideFare, which recently announced that it would be moving its headquarters to Austin from Phoenix, said the company will remain focused on its move.

“We’re going to make sure that we get our service offering to where it needs to be for the people of Austin, so we really wanted to focus our energy on that,” Leto said.

Andy Tryba, one of the founders of RideAustin, a nonprofit organization offering ride-hailing services, will be speaking at the hearing. Initially the company said it would not be participating.

Representatives from home sharing and delivery services will also chime in on the discussion. Lawyers and board members from the Texas Homeowners Association are also on the list of speakers, along with city leaders from San Antonio, Houston, Austin and Dallas.

“I think every participant is going to face questions about the strengths and weaknesses of their security policies and regulations. The committee needs to balance the priorities of personal safety, consumer protections, sufficient service at a reasonable price, uniform compliance of reasonable regulations, and ease of access to the market,” Oliveira wrote.To

Watch a livestream broadcast of the hearing here.

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