A bill ostensibly designed to regulate ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft passed the Texas House 110-37 Wednesday with an amendment that defines “sex" as "the physical condition of being male or female."
The original bill, which was proposed by Republican Rep. Chris Paddie was designed to establish statewide regulations on the popular ride-hailing services that would require annual criminal background checks for drivers that are less strict than those some municipalities have adopted.
The original text of the law barred drivers from discriminating against riders on the basis of "location or destination, race, color, national origin, religious belief or affiliation, sex, disability or age." An amendment proposed by Republicans Briscoe Cain and Tony Tinderholt adds a stipulation that defines “sex” as "the physical condition of being male or female," which may undermine the original intent of the nondiscrimination clause.
The Texas House adopted the amendment 90-52. Additional amendments that would have added protections for gender identity and sexual orientation failed though it is worth noting Uber and Lyft have policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In addition to providing a limited definition of sex, the bill also would require an annual name-based criminal background check at the local, state and national levels.
It also would bar local governments from setting their own regulations on the ride-hailing services, which would directly undermine the stricter rules cities like Austin have passed — rules with which Uber and Lyft opted not to comply, ending their services within the city.
A major sticking point was fingerprint-based background checks required at the local level. Austin mandated companies do fingerprint checks, which go through an FBI database that maintains a person’s criminal record until they are 99 years old.
Fingerprint background checks are typically used for positions considered “security or safety sensitive.”
Democratic Rep. Yvonne Davis of Dallas attempted to add an amendment that would allow local governments to require drivers to pass fingerprint background checks before driving for services within the city, but the proposal was tabled 101-40.
Other rules brought by the bill would include the ability for cities to enter into agreements with the ride-hailing services to collect and share traffic data within the city and coordinate transportation options for major events. It also would prohibit ride-hailing services from accepting cash payments.