Texas Supreme Court denies stay for ridesharing ballot language


AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Texas Supreme Court says it will not issue a stay for the ballot language associated with the Transportation Network Companies up for a vote on May 7.

On Monday, the court issued an order stating the “writ of mandamus is denied.”  Last week, Austin voter Samantha Phelps filed the petition for the stay. Phelps and ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft wanted to challenge the City of Austin’s ballot language, which is supposed to be finalized on March 14.

Currently, the ballot language reads as follows:

“Shall the City Code be amended to repeal City Ordinance No. 20151217-075 relating to Transportation Network Companies; and replace with an ordinance that would repeal and prohibit required fingerprinting, repeal the requirement to identify the vehicle with a distinctive emblem, repeal the prohibition against loading and unloading passengers in a travel lane, and require other regulations for Transportation Network Companies?”

Uber representatives argue the current ballot language focuses on what would be repealed, but fails to mention the ordinance would maintain a national, criminal background check and would ban certain convicted criminals from driving. The language also does not mention the new ordinance would include a one percent fee to the city. However, the council-passed rules also include a fee of the TNC company’s choosing, with the one percent fee as one option.

“The Austin City Council adopted ballot language in February that is clear and definite and the Texas Supreme Court has today appropriately refused to second guess the City Council’s work,” says a City of Austin spokesperson on Monday.

Uber and Lyft have promised to stop service in Austin if the city requires them to conduct fingerprint background checks. After the ordinance passed in December, a political action committee supported by the companies called Ridesharing Works for Austin formed. The group celebrated gathering more than 65,000 signatures in support of a new ordinance, which would primarily get rid of the fingerprinting requirement. The new ordinance went in front of council, which had to either approve that ordinance or send the issue to voters. Council decided the let Austinites makes the decision on what they want from TNCs.

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