Pro-business groups, lawmakers form ridesharing coalition - Florida Politics

Pro-business groups, lawmakers form ridesharing coalition

Stare business and transportation leaders along with officials pushing comprehensive ride-hailing legislation launched the Floridians for Ridesharing Coalition Tuesday ahead of discussion slated for the Senate Judiciary committee.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Matt Gaetz both back legislation in their respective chambers that would regulate the industry through rules on insurance requirements for drivers.

Rules governing companies such as Uber and Lyft are ambiguous and leave drivers vulnerable to traffic tickets and being turned away from customers. Insurance experts worry the lack of regulation means drivers, who use their personal cars on their own schedules to pick up customers, are using only their personal insurance that wouldn’t apply to vehicle-for-hire service.

A bill passed this Session in the House requires at least $1 million in coverage for death, bodily injury, and property damage while the driver is giving a ride.

A similar measure is making its rounds through the Senate.

“Uber and Lyft truly represent the future,” Brandes said.

The ride-hailing measure has been one of his top priorities for the past couple of years. But there’s a potential setback.

The House version of a bill regulating companies like Uber and Lyft includes a local preemption clause that would prohibit local bodies from implementing the regulation. The Senate version of the bill lacks such language.

If the Senate chooses to move forward with its version of the bill, the issue could end in an impasse as it did in the last session. However, Brandes said he supports the preemption.

“I can only imagine each city trying to regulate … how problematic that could be for rideshare,” Brandes said.

Brandes said the Senate bill focuses primarily on the insurance component of regulation whereas the House bill includes more language on items such as background checks.

“We think that insurance piece will allow us to have a conversation on the broader issues,” Brandes said of the hurdles facing passage of a law.

The coalition formed Tuesday doesn’t mind the House’s more-stringent version of the regulation. It already backed HB 509 co-sponsored by Gaetz.

“Government works best when it establishes fair rules,” the Internet Association’s Noah Theran said.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce also backs comprehensive regulation.

“[It’s a] common sense step to foster innovation and provide Floridians with transportation options,” Florida Chamber of Commerce executive Vice President David Hart said.

Ride-hailing companies use an Internet-based platform that allows users to download a Web app to virtually hail a driver. The app stores a user profile that eliminates any cash exchanging hands and allows users to see a photo of their driver as well as what kind of car they drive.

Drivers are required to maintain a newer model car so users experience high quality rides. The companies often undercut fares from traditional taxi companies.

“Dozens of other states have successfully passed legislation,” Gaetz said. “This is something we can do and something we should do.”

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Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.
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