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Council Finalizes Ballot Language for Ridesharing Referendum

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Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT
The Austin City Council approved the ballot language for a May ride-hailing referendum.

The Austin City Council has approved the ballot language for the city-wide election to be held in May on regulating ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft. The language asks voters if they wish to repeal regulations that prohibit fingerprinting requirements for drivers, require distinctive emblems on vehicles, and prohibit drivers from loading and unloading passengers in travel lanes.

What the ballot language does not explain is that a “Yes” vote in May would essentially preserve the regulations that are currently in effect: By the time the election rolls around, a new city ordinance will have taken effect, so the ballot language is phrased in terms of "repealing" rather than "implementing" or "preserving."

“It’s actually repealing these things," explains Council Member Ann Kitchen. "Our job is to describe the ordinance that’s in front of [voters]. So, this states what this ordinance does by the very language in that ordinance.”

The petition ordinance going before voters would preserve the ride-hailing regulations currently in effect, with a few small changes.

Council Member Don Zimmerman opposed the ballot language because it fails to mention the fact that – if the ordinance passes – the city couldn't charge ride-hailing apps a fee on its Austin revenue, which would be diverted towards transportation improvements. 

"If we pass this we're saying that we're repealing the fee, which is a benefit to the city of maybe $1 million a year in revenue," Zimmerman says. 

The vote is scheduled for Saturday, May 7. You can read the full ballot language below. 

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