Aldermen will consider a watered down version of Ald. Anthony Beale’s (9) ride-share ordinance on Wednesday after a substitute ordinance drafted by the Mayor’s Office was discussed in a nearly two hour private briefing yesterday.

[Substitute ordinance briefing doc from Mayor’s Office.]

The substitute ordinance will be swapped in at Wednesday’s full City Council meeting, Ald. Beale told Aldertrack.

The substitute ordinance, which hadn’t been drafted as of yesterday evening, according to multiple sources, would eliminate the fingerprinting and drug test requirement, and would let ride-share drivers undergo a background check conducted by Uber and Lyft.

Some of the provisions in the proposed substitute:

  • Drivers would still have to apply for a public chauffeur’s license, paying a nominal fee to the city, but the city-administered background check portion of the license would be removed from the measure. Uber and Lyft would conduct their own background checks.
  • The licensing change, depending on how it’s written, could also impact pedicabs, horse drawn carriages and livery cabs, which are currently required to apply for the same license.
  • Ald. Beale said the city would still have the authority to order a drug or background check if a driver gets into an accident or displays “abnormal behavior.”
  • Instead of requiring that Uber and Lyft drivers attend a one day class to obtain a special license, drivers would be able to take an online class or in person class.
  • Drivers would be subject to semi-annual debt checks to find whether drivers owe any debt to the city. 
  • An independent study on the role of fingerprinting would be conducted. It was argued during committee meetings and previous briefings that fingerprinting unfairly discriminates against minorities because it doesn’t give an accurate picture of someone’s background. Those opposed to the fingerprinting rule have said a person could be flagged for an arrest, even if the charges were dismissed. Depending on the findings of the study, fingerprinting requirements for city jobs and contracts could be done away with down the road.
  • The mandate that requires at least 5% of all Uber and Lyft cars be wheelchair accessible would be temporarily waived. Under the substitute, Uber and Lyft would be given about six months to come up with a plan to improve accessibility, and another six months to implement the plan. Ald. Beale told Aldertrack that the two companies would be hit with exorbitant daily fines if the companies don’t comply.  

“We want to implement some studies to clear the air,” Ald. Beale explained, although he anticipates that the ordinance will be deferred and published at Wednesday’s full City Council meeting because the taxi industry and some aldermen didn’t get “100%” of what they were asking for.

The Illinois Transportation Trade Association “is not happy about some of the provisions,” Ald. Beale said when asked if the taxi industry supports the plan. “When you are negotiating, no one is going to be totally happy.”

Those who attended yesterday’s briefing told Aldertrack that the discussion got somewhat heated, with Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1) getting particularly “animated” about his opposition to Ald. Beale’s ride-share ordinance. Prior to attending the briefing, Ald. Moreno held a press conference on the second floor of City Hall to argue that the downsides of Ald. Beale’s ordinance far outweigh the benefits. Ald. Sophia King (4) was listed on the press release, but didn’t attend the press conference.

“We are coming up with a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist,” Ald. Moreno told reporters, suggesting that taking a ride with Uber or Lyft is safer than a taxi, because the platform lets the rider know the name of the driver, the type of car and the route taken. He also dismissed Ald. Beale’s previous assertions that he had the votes to get his beefed up licensing requirements through the council.

At the private briefing, which one source described to Aldertrack as “rather dysfunctional”, the Mayor’s Office provided a study by a the Frazier Group that discounts the need for fingerprinting. Aldermen present at the meeting were displeased that roughly five to six lobbyists with Lyft were allowed to attend the meeting. Aldermen asked them to leave, arguing it was inappropriate that they were allowed to sit in on a meeting about regulations for their industry, the sources said.