A representative of Uber personally delivered what he said were 32,588 petitions to Senate President Andy Gardiner on Thursday morning, continuing the intensifying fight between Senate leadership and the ride-hailing industry. They have sparred for months over insurance regulations and the preemption of local ordinances.
The two parties are locked in a heated debate over whether the Senate should vote on a House-approved supportive “ridesharing” plan sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes. Their other option is to take up a more modest bill that would settle outstanding sticking points on insurance that was written by Senate Rules Chairman David Simmons. Uber favors the former, while the latter appears more likely at this stage.
Simmons represents the Orlando area as does Gardiner, who has ties to the traditional taxi and limousine firm Mears Transportation. Pro-Uber critics of the Senate have made much of that fact in recent days.
As he delivered the 3-feet-high pile of signatures, Uber’s Director of Public Affairs for the Southeast Colin Tooze said the signatures gathered from Uber riders and drivers across the state shows the public is behind their cause.
The show of support is in addition to the will of the Florida House, who passed the bill 108-10 with bipartisan support, Tooze said.
Tooze added major stakeholder groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Several Florida mayors have also voiced their support for what Tooze called “comprehensive ridesharing legislation.”
“All they’re asking for is one simple thing: for a vote on ridesharing in the state Senate,” he said.
“On Monday Senate President Gardiner said the best advice he ever got was not to fear the debate,” said Tooze. “That’s all that the 32,588 Floridians who signed this petition … are asking for.”
Uber continued to add a pointed personal bent to their argument with Gardiner, creating a hashtag – #DontFearTheDebate – and urging supporters to tweet to senators appending the tag. The firm says thousands of people have done so in the past day.
“It’s time for the voices of the people of Florida to be heard and it’s time for a vote on ridesharing in the Florida Senate today,” Tooze concluded.