Chicago aldermen on Wednesday approved less restrictive regulations on ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft after the member who crafted the rules dropped an insistence on fingerprint background checks.
After wild back and forth on the floor, Beale's watered down regulations on Uber/Lyft passes with 36 yes-12 no— Lauren Chooljian (@laurenchooljian) June 22, 2016
The City Council passed the measure 36 to 12 after months of debate and intense lobbying against tougher restrictions on the companies, which created smartphone apps allowing people to hail rides at the push of a button.
Alderman Anthony Beale's original proposal would have required drivers to be fingerprinted as part of a criminal background check, just like traditional taxi drivers. Critics said the companies already carry out background checks and the extra requirements would discourage or unfairly bar many from becoming drivers. Mayor Rahm Emanuel was among those opposed to tougher rules on ride-hailing services, which had threatened to pull out of the city if the fingerprinting provision wasn't scrapped.
Beale agreed to delay fingerprinting for at least six months to allow more time to study that requirement.
The regulations passed Wednesday also require drivers to take a one-day course that can be completed online to get a chauffeur's license.
The compromise failed to satisfy the taxi industry, which argues that ride-hailing companies operate with an unfair advantage because they're not subjected to the same level of regulation.
Uber and Lyft are fighting similar requirements in other U.S. cities, arguing that tough restrictions could kill a venture that provides jobs and transportation in areas where traditional taxis are scarce. Both companies suspended services in Austin, Texas, last month after voters decided against overturning city requirements that include fingerprinting the drivers.
Beale told reporters on Monday that ride-hailing drivers in Chicago could still be subjected to fingerprinting in the future.
"They have six months, and if it comes back that fingerprinting is necessary, I promise you as strong as I am sitting here breathing, they are going to be mandated to fingerprint," Beale said.
Aldermen also passed regulations on short-term rental companies like Airbnb, by a vote of 43-8, after a period of debate.
Reilly: "Good luck sleeping at night" with a bachelor party in an Airbnb next to your house— Lauren Chooljian (@laurenchooljian) June 22, 2016
The regulations impose new licensing fees to fund enforcement and services for the homeless, and sets up a complaint hotline.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office says the regulations are the first in the nation to require companies like Airbnb to regularly share data on rental listings with the city so it can check if they comply with the law.
Opponents argue the new rules fall short.
Airbnb says its services boost neighborhood spending and provide homeowners with extra cash.