Late last year, the city council in Austin, Texas passed a new law requiring ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft to replace their current background check systems with costly fingerprint-based checks when vetting potential drivers. The mandate, ostensibly promulgated in the name of public safety, now threatens to drive ridesharing services out of the city.
Austin residents, it seems, do not want to be left hanging. Twenty-five thousand citizens have rejected the city council’s action, signing a petition to force the council to withdraw its ordinance – or spend up to half a million of taxpayers’ money to conduct a special election in a bid to uphold its new regulation.
In response to the outcry by citizens, Austin Mayor Steve Adler proposed an alternative ordinance that would not compel fingerprinting. Instead, Austin would incentivize its use by offering special privileges to drivers who submit to a fingerprint background check, such as access to areas currently off-limits to non-taxi drivers.
Austin’s city council, however, wasn’t having any of it. On Feb. 11th, the city council rejected not just the petition but Adler’s proposed ordinance as well. This means that issue will now go before voters this May.