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Victorious Prop 1 PAC prepares for next battle

Monday, August 15, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

Dozens of supporters of the homespun political action committee that brought two multibillion-dollar global corporations to heel last May held a victory party of sorts in Central Austin last week.

According to the invitation, the Our City, Our Safety, Our Choice PAC event was nominally about raising money for a new battle as the PAC’s old rivals prepare to take the fight over ride-hailing regulations to the Texas Legislature.

“In addition to getting funds for the future, we still have a few loans to pay off, which will be nice to be able do,” former City Council Member Laura Morrison told the crowd.

According to the PAC’s July 15 filing, it still has $22,000 in outstanding loans, or about one-fifth of its total spending in the May 7 election. By contrast, the rival Uber- and Lyft-funded PAC, which urged residents to vote for new ride-hailing regulations preferred by the two Silicon Valley-based giants, spent more than $10 million. Nonetheless, it ended up losing by 10 points.

Both corporations ceased operations in Austin after the election. Each has kept a relatively low profile even as a long list of upstart ride-hailing companies have sprouted up or moved in to fill the void.

However, several Republican state lawmakers have vowed to make Austin’s election – which was forced by a petition drive funded by Uber and Lyft – an issue in the upcoming legislative session. Rep. Jason Villalba and Sen. Don Huffines, both of Dallas, have indicated interest in crafting a statewide regulatory framework that would overturn Austin’s laws, which require that ride-hailing drivers undergo fingerprint-based background checks.

On Wednesday night, Morrison acknowledged the inherent differences between fighting a local campaign and waging a battle at the state Capitol. Whereas the former relies on the traditional ground game methods of getting out the vote, the latter requires the art of influencing sometimes capricious lawmakers.

“And there are experts at that,” Morrison said. “So the question is going to have to be: For our interests, how do we tap into that level of involvement?”

In the meantime, the Our City PAC is not short of expertise and influence, at least on the local scale. Wednesday night’s fundraiser also featured appearances by Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea, Tax Collector-Assessor Bruce Elfant, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, political consultant David Butts and former Texas Monthly publisher Mike Levy.

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