The criminal charges against Duncan Eric Burton loomed over discussions at the capitol yesterday about how best to regulate rideshare services like Uber and Lyft in the state of Texas.
Burton, who was arrested last Thursday, has admitted taking a blackout drunk passenger to his apartment, where he then orally, vaginally and anally raped the woman, according to a Houston police officer's affidavit filed in a Harris County court.
We've since learned that Uber's third party background check somehow didn't catch that Burton had released from federal prison in 2012 and was on probation after serving 14 years behind bars on a felony drug charge, something that should have disqualified him from driving for the company. It appears Burton was among the untold number of Uber drivers who still pick up passengers but haven't registered with the City of Houston to undergo a fingerprint-based background check that city officials insist is more rigorous than Uber's system and would have flagged Burton's criminal history.
Yesterday the House Transportation Committee took up House Bill 2440, which would effectively nullify rideshare ordinances like the one in Houston and instead set up a statewide registry through the department of motor vehicles, giving Uber total control to screen its own drivers. Which means Uber was in the incredibly awkward position of getting up in front of lawmakers and arguing that the company's process for screening drivers, which just failed in spectacular fashion, works just fine. More »