A big night for the ridesharing community. City Council is expected to vote on a controversial ridesharing ordinance. If passed, Uber and Lyft may pack their bags and leave the city.
In a surprise move today, the council announced some big changes to the verbiage of the ordinance. Council will basically incentivize drivers to get the dreaded fingerprint background checks...and the companies will have until February of 2017 to comply.
An hour before council was scheduled to discuss ridesharing, two competing rallies happened on the front steps of City Hall.
Cab drivers supporting the ordinance...along with Uber and Lyft hoping council will leave things like they are.
Council member Ellen Troxclair doesn't want the forward-thinking Austin to be one of the only major cities in the world to "drive Uber and Lyft out."
"This is the government thinking that they know how to run a ridesharing business better than the two most successful ridesharing businesses in the world," she said.
In a press conference hours before the meeting, the Mayor and Council member Ann kitchen announced a new framework for the ordinance.
"This framework sets benchmarks that work towards a goal of fingerprinting for all drivers and disincentives for not reaching those goals according to those benchmarks," Kitchen said.
There will also be incentives for passengers to ride with a fingerprinted driver.
Uber's Austin GM Marco McCottry says they haven't had time to fully review these changes.
"They've extended the deadline. But they've extended the deadline for another year and so that's the question...it's a statement of confidence in our current background check process. If it's good for another year, why do we need another duplicative process after that?" McCottry said.
McCottry was coy about whether his company would leave sooner rather than later if the ordinance passed Thursday night.
Council Member Don Zimmerman has said the tougher requirements for ridesharing companies is not something his constituents want.
"I want to call on the citizens of Austin to rise up in an initiative effort and put this item on the ballot and have the constituents vote on it," Zimmerman said.
As far as the incentives and disincentives...if the ordinance passes tonight, council will tackle what those will be in January. The mayor says that could mean a fingerprinted driver will get more revenue from a ride or the city may give fingerprinted drivers better access during big events in the city.