Jeff Brandes Archives - Page 4 of 39 - Florida Politics

Impressive roster of GOP leaders line up for Ed Hooper fundraiser

Clearwater Republican Ed Hooper is assembling an impressive number of high-profile state lawmakers for a Tallahassee reception next month. Hooper, a former state representative, is seeking the open Senate District 16 seat currently held by Jack Latvala.

Hooper’s campaign fundraiser will be Monday, March 6, from 2:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. at the Governors Club, 202 South Adams Street.

The host committee reads like a Who’s Who of GOP state leaders, including Senate President Joe Negron and nearly all the Pinellas County/Hillsborough delegation: Sens. Latvala, Bill GalvanoWilton SimpsonDana Young and Jeff Brandes.

Republican senators from beyond the Tampa Bay area will be there, too: Lizbeth BenacquistoGeorge GainerDenise GrimsleyFrank ArtilesDennis BaxleyAaron BeanTravis HutsonDebbie MayfieldKathleen PassidomoKeith PerryRobert BradleyDoug BroxsonDavid SimmonsKelli Stargel and Greg Steube.

The House will also be well represented, with Larry AhernBen AlbrittonChris Latvala and Kathleen Peters.

A former Clearwater firefighter who served four terms in the House before term limits forced him out, Hooper ran for Pinellas County Commission in 2014, losing to Democrat Pat Gerard after a contentious campaign.

Jeff Brandes calls for investigation of Tri-Rail contract

Saying that testimony before his committee convinced him that inadequate time was set aside to decide what is now a controversial $511 million contract award, state Sen. Jeff Brandes Thursday called for an investigation of Tri-Rail.

Brandes asked Interim Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Rachel Cone to have the department’s investigator general look into how the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority handled its selection process that ultimately disqualified five companies and awarded Tri-Rail’s 10-year operations and maintenance contract to the bidder with the highest price, Herzog Transportation Services, in late January.

Officials of the authority were not immediately available Thursday to comment in response. The authority operates the Tri-Rail commuter trains through Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Earlier Thursday, authority Executive Director Jack Stephens testified before Brandes’s Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development and defended the award as proper and appropriate. The process began with a request for proposals in September, the proposals came in December and the decision to reject five bids was made in late December. The board awarded the contract in late January, which Stephens acknowledged gave little time for a transition from current contractors before the July 1 turnover.

However, Stephens said the rules of the proposals were clear, and it was clear to the authority’s staff and lawyers that only Herzog followed the rules.

But Brandes peppered Stephens with questions about the length of the process and the apparent rush to award and administer the contract.

And Brandes apparently was unconvinced that the authority handled it as it should. Brandes expressed particular concern that the process gave no time for appeals or considerations for unusual circumstances, such as five of six bids being rejected before they were even compared.

“The awarding of a contract in excess of $500 million in public funds after such a short bidding process is disturbing,” he wrote in his letter to Cone. “The procurement policies appear to lack adequate time for disqualified applicants to appeal administrative actions taken by the authority. I am concerned that appropriate competition did not take place during the procurement process for this contract.”

There also were concerns raised abut Stephens contention that if Herzog’s contract was not awarded, that company had grounds to challenge, just as four of the rejected companies now are doing, and that could lead to more delays.

Yet the contract itself includes language that allows the authority to terminate it “without cause upon thirty (30) calendar days written notice to the contractor.”

Brandes suggested the authority’s procurement policies may be flawed.

“The authority maintains their actions are defensible because they complied with their internal procurement policies. However, the taxpayers deserve a higher scrutiny of this process,” he write.

“Therefore, I am requesting the Department initiate an official investigation by the Investigator General into this matter. I further request the investigation review both the facts of this particular procurement in question, as well as the entire procurement policy of the authority.”

Tri-Rail defends its $500M contract before Senate committee

The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority took its best shot Thursday at defending its decisions to throw out five proposals and accept the remaining one for a $511 million contract, a move that has drawn stern criticism from several state leaders including Gov. Rick Scott.

Among the biggest critics has been state Sen. Jeff Brandes, and on Thursday the authority Executive Director Jack Stephens came before Brandes’ Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development to argue that his agency did exactly what it was legally and ethically supposed to do.

Stephens spent 45 minutes walking the committee through his agency’s procurement process for the operations and maintenance contract of the commuter rail system that serves Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

His bottom line: the process left SFRTA with just one qualified proposal to consider; and the proposal was deemed acceptable; and the contract was awarded; even though the five rejected proposals all appeared to be for less money, as much as $115 million less over ten years. The key is the rejected proposals’ bottom lines did not appear solid.

“These five proposals were not rejected for technicalities, but for substantive changes to contract provisions in violation of the RFP’s instructions,” Stephens told the subcommittee.

“We were extremely careful, extremely careful, to lay out a level playing field, set rules. And the proposers have to live by those rules, just like a football game,” Stephens added.

Whether or not Stephens’ defense allays critics remains unclear. After the situation came to light, and even before the SFRTA board voted 6-2 on Jan. 27 to award the contract to Herzog Transit Services, Brandes had raised serious suspicions and had vaguely threatened to cut Tri-Rail’s $42 million state subsidy. The Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold did likewise. Scott zeroed out $156 million in state money for Tri-Rail infrastructure projects in his proposed budget.

Neither Brandes nor anyone else on the committee suggested Thursday that anything had changed as a result of Stephens’ testimony. Stephens took questions from Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, and from state Sen. Frank Artiles a Miami-Dade Republican who had defended the authority’s actions in a column Wednesday on FlordiaPolitics.com.

Artiles also defended the authority’s decision Thursday, saying it was based on clear process.

“Once you start peeling back the onion on what has transpired here, the process is the process,” Artiles said.

No one raised any overt or even inferred suspicions Thursday that the contract may have been somehow steered to Herzog, and Stephens did not have to respond to any such accusations.

However, Stephens did note there was an “optics” problems with the half-billion contract going to what essentially was the highest bidder. Instead of responding to the image question, he offered his own optics perspective.

He noted that Donald Trump was elected president in part because of his “America First” slogan and promises. And then Stephens pointed out that the five failed proposers included four with international ownership: two Canadian, one French and one British. Herzog, by contrast, is a private American company, he said.

Brandes questioned whether that “America First” notion impacted the decision process, but Stephens said no.

Price was only 20 percent of the consideration, with the rest of the decision based on scoring of the companies’ technical and reliability characteristics. However, only Herzog was thus scored on those matters.

While Stephens said there were several issues with the rejected proposals, the fundamental one had to do with their discussions of liability insurance. Four of the companies wanted the authority to extend it’s base policy to the companies’ potential subcontractors, and the fifth, Amtrak, had other liability insurance concerns.

“We said, ‘No. That risk has to lie with the proposer and it has to be included in your price,’ Stephens said. “And they failed to do it. It makes no sense to me. Why they did that, I don’t know.”

Brandes questioned how five experienced companies could get through an entire procurement process without reaching that understanding, if the process was as clear as Stephens said.

“Clearly there was some concern or some confusion about this issue of insurance, since every single group – these are multinational firms as you described – all of them had some issues specifically related to the insurance, that ultimately disqualified at least four of them,” Brandes said. “Why was that not then clarified? Why was there not belts and suspenders to clarify this issue?”

“That was absolutely clarified,” Stephens responded.

Four of the rejected companies are appealing, but the authority is moving forward in contracting with Herzog, Stephens said. He raised strong concerns about being able to mobilize a transition from four companies now providing operations and maintenance services to Herzog in time for a seamless transition on July 1. He said any delays in the transition now could be detrimental to riders, and could also disrupt the authority’s plans for additional services, including establishment of a ground transportation system to downtown Orlando.

medical marijuana

New group seeks to steer medical marijuana between control, free market

As at least one key lawmaker pushes to open Florida’s coming medical marijuana industry to a free market and the current seven licensed companies fight to keep it tight, a new advocacy group is emerging saying it wants to help develop a middle ground.

Smart Medicine For Florida will be pushing for regulations that would assure quality, safety, and security while also seeking a market open enough to assure fair pricing and the voices of patients and doctors, said the new group’s leader, Brian Hughes.

The new group will be emerging in coming weeks with details as the Florida Legislature begins in ernest to transition from the very limited, low-THC marijuana medicine production and distribution program that began in 2016 to the much broader one authorized when voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 2 in November, essentially legalizing all forms of medicines derived from marijuana.

That legislative debate could pingpong between interests that still want to regulate medical marijuana into non-existence, to rising advocacy for a free-market.

“We intend to be a voice in the middle of this debate about what’s gong to happen with Amendment 2,” Hughes said. “It feels like there’s a space for patients and doctors and people regardless of where they stood on Amendment 2.”

Amendment 2 allows for virtually all forms of marijuana medicines from edibles to smoke, to treat any disabling medical conditions. That’s a huge step from the program authorized by the Florida Legislature in 2015, which allows only oil extracts, only from plants essentially devoid of the THC chemical that can make people high, and only for patients with epilepsy, a few other neurological disorders, and certain cancer treatments.

With the limited market that had been envisioned for the current program, it was limited to just seven highly-regulated statewide producers. Already some lawmakers are saying that does not make sense for a future market that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year now that Amendment 2 has been approved.

Among them, state Sen. Jeff Brandes is calling for a free market. His Senate Bill 614 sets that up with no vertical integration of marijuana businesses. And now he has called out the House of Representatives on expectations that it will follow the same philosophy.

“The House of Representatives has been a steadfast supporter of the free market. The House stands against government intervention that picks winners and losers, and opposes onerous rules and regulations that distort the private sector,” Brandes said in a statement.

“The laws in place today governing Florida’s medical marijuana system restrict market participants, and it is tailor-made for a few influential businesses to dominate the industry,” Brandes continued. “The result of this type of market distortion is often higher prices, shortages of goods, and a lower quality product for consumers. Given the free market track record of the House, I am confident that they will not buckle under the pressure of the special interests of the existing cartel who wrote the current broken medical marijuana law.”

Hughes said his group wants to see what ideas emerge from the Florida Legislature and to work with those. He cautioned against any wide-open market that could lead to a situation like California’s which have become notorious for pot shops masquerading as medical dispensaries.

“The voters approved a medical marijuana policy that provides medicine to patients. They did not approve recreational use. Florida is not California and doesn’t want to become California,” Hughes said. “Creating the wild west of weed in Florida and claiming it’s about free markets is not a responsible way forward.

“Medical marijuana is a drug,” Hughes added. “So policymakers have a responsibility to ensure it is appropriately regulated for patient safety and medical quality while at the same time ensuring reasonable access to those in need. Done the right way, this will end the illicit market that exists to keep marijuana off our streets and out of our schools.”

Tri-Rail sticking with, defending, controversial $500M, one-bid contract

The operators of South Florida’s Tri-Rail commuter train are sticking to their guns, defending their process that disqualified five of six bidders for a half-billion dollar contract, and hoping to win back angry state leaders who want to cut their state funding over the matter.

“Right now, we’re moving forward. We followed a process, and we put the process in place,” said C. Mikel Oglesby, deputy executive director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority.

That process has Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Department of Transportation and state Sen. Jeff Brandes, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development, all threatening to cut Tri-Rail’s money.

Their concerns are over how and why the regional transportation authority disqualified five lower bids before awarding the contract to Herzog Transit Services for $511 million for ten years.

The contract is a merged program that brings together the operations, train maintenance, track maintenance and dispatching for a commuter rail that serves 4 million people a year along a line from West Palm Beach to Miami.

The authority requested the proposals late last summer, and they were all submitted in December. Late in December the authority’s procurement staff, backed by its Technical Committee, ruled that five companies ignored explicit rules and made their proposals conditional, meaning their bottom lines might not be their ultimate bottom lines.

Their proposals were tossed, even though they were for less money, as low as $396 million over ten years. The bidding process wasn’t all about money; 80 percent of the competition had to do with other matters such as reliability and programmatic assurances. But no one knows how the others stacked up against Herzog on those scores because the tossed proposals were never scored.

All that is known for sure is that Herzog’s bid cost the most.

Tri-Rail gets about $42 million in operating subsidies from the Florida Legislature, through the Florida Department of Transportation, and also was slated to get $156 million in infrastructure money from the state.

Now all that’s at risk as the authority goes forward with what Oglesby said was the fair, appropriate and legal outcome of a bidding process in which all the bidders but one failed to follow the rules.

State officials though fear something may be amiss. In Scott’s budget proposal, Tri-Rail’s programmed infrastructure money was zeroed out, with a notation that Tri-Rail could get it only if it revisited the operations and maintenance contract award. Brandes was furious when the board ignored his concerns and approved the Herzog contract on Jan. 27, and threatened that money.

“We hope it doesn’t come to that,” Oglesby said.

The authority will get its first chance to defend itself and try to rescuer that funding Thursday morning before Brandes’s committee.

“We think that once they hear from us tomorrow, they’ll see that we followed the rules. I think they’ll have a better understanding about what we did and why we did it,” Oglesby said. “We’ll make sure we’re thorough and really succinct in our explanation. And it’s going to really come down to, what do we do next?”

Even at $511 million, Herzog’s proposal appeared reasonable, he said. That’s because the authority’s private, outside engineering estimate for what the services likely were worth had come to $530 million, so Herzog beat the cost estimate.

The authority also must deal with challenges from the losing companies, who deny that there was anything conditional about their proposals. Three of them went to court in January and argued that the authority’s procurement staff and technical committee had misinterpreted and mischaracterized their proposals, and that the Authority had the full power to hold them to their written bottom lines, regardless of whether there were concerns about the proposals being conditional.

However, in a preliminary decision, Circuit Judge Barbara McCarthy of Broward County sided with the authority.

“A judge listened to them for four and a half hours at a hearing and found that our procurement director’s determination was reasonable. She realized, yes, the proposers did condition, even though they claimed they didn’t,” Oglesby said. “A judge said they did. Our procurement director said they did. Our attorneys said they did. And ultimately, as we moved forward and got a majority board vote, the board agreed.”

There also is the issue of the riders, Oglesby added. Herzog met all the conditions with no caveats, including addressing some additional services such as providing ground transportation to other points away from the tracks, while the authority contended some of the other proposals left that up in the air.

The new services are to be in place July 1.

Extending the process by rejecting what essentially is a qualified bid below estimates and seeking to either rebid or re-award the contract would at the least cause delays of unknown length, he added; and then Herzog would have grounds to challenge.

“You have 4 million riders scratching their heads right now, wondering what’s going on, and why aren’t we moving forward and doing the right thing for us,” he said.

Ridesharing bills could pave the way for transformational changes

On the same day an Uber- and Lyft-friendly ridesharing bill passed its first committee stop in the Florida House, state Sen. Jeff Brandes was presenting his vision of where he believes the transportation industry is headed.

“We’re in a generational shift from the horse and buggy to the Model-T,” Brandes said Wednesday evening at the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee.

The St. Petersburg Republican was the main presenter at a public event focusing on emerging transportation technologies. He’s also sponsoring legislation similar to the House ridesharing bill.

If successful, the measures would create uniform insurance and background check requirements for participating drivers, and prevent local governments from issuing conflicting regulations.

The reforms could be a first-step in a much larger sequence of changes.

“The industry is evolving,” Brandes said. “Auto manufacturers, tech companies and all kinds of groups are working hard to get into this space.”

As with carpooling, ridesharing allows for multiple passengers to share vehicles during their commutes – often at the touch of a smartphone app.

Cutting transportation costs, such as vehicle maintenance and gasoline, and reducing traffic congestion and vehicle emissions are just a few benefits.

The higher the ride-sharing occupancy rate, and the more people are allowed to use the services, the less cars would be needed – or so the logic goes.

“I think if the cost per mile continues to go down, and if insurance is a bundled service, it’s going to be pretty compelling for some people to use shared cars as their second cars,” Brandes told Watchdog.org in an interview.

When considering shared driverless cars and electric ridesharing vehicles, the potential for change is even more dramatic.

Brandes explained: Electric vehicle operators won’t pay gas taxes. Fewer vehicles mean fewer title fees for the state. Local governments could lose revenue from fewer traffic citations. Parking revenues would decrease, as would demand for urban parking garages.

“This has the potential to change cities, the electric grid, the insurance industry and even health care,” Brandes said, referring to the probability of fewer car accidents.

“It’s all of these different things and it’s going to begin happening within the next 10 to 20 years,” he said. “So how do we get our minds around this?”

Large financial institutions are already engaged.

“The market for private automobile ownership is likely headed for disruption,” predicts Morgan Stanley. A video presentation by Adam Jonas, head of global auto research for Morgan Stanley, provided context for Brandes’ remarks.

In part, the vision was described as an impending evolution in mass public transit that doesn’t require massive taxpayer-funded public transportation projects.

“When you know something big is going to happen but you haven’t begun to feel the effects yet, the focus should be on maximizing our options,” Brandes said. “We’re in a fascinating time.”

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers approved last week’s ridesharing bill, 14-1. The measure faces another House committee and floor action before heading to the Senate, where previous attempts at preempting local government regulations have failed.

New Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, is expected to be more receptive this year.

Jeff Brandes files bill to create affordable housing task force

A Senate bill filed this week would create a task force to address the state’s affordable housing needs.

The bill (SB 854), filed Friday by Sen. Jeff Brandes, would create an affordable housing task force assigned to the Florida Housing Finance Corp. According to the St. Petersburg Republican’s proposal, the task force would be charged with “developing recommendations for addressing the state’s affordable housing needs.”

With an another 5 million people expected to be living in Florida by 2030, Brandes said he filed the bill because he thinks there needs to be discussion about how the state approaches workforce housing and affordable housing going forward.

“There really isn’t a statewide direction for affordable housing,” said Brandes.

The proposal calls for a 10-member board made up of the executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, or her designee; two members appointed by the Governor, two members appointed by the Senate President; two members appointed by the House Speakers; the executive director of the Florida Association of Counties, or a designee; the executive director of the Florida League of Cities, or a designee; and the executive director of the Florida Housing Finance Corp., who will serve as the board chairman.

Members of the task force will not be compensated, but would receive per diem travel expenses as spelled out under state law.

The goal, Brandes said, is to “take a holistic view” of affordable and workforce housing.

According to his proposal, the committee would be tasked with making a recommendation that includes reviews of market rate developments; affordable housing developments; land use for affordable housing developments; building codes for affordable housing developments; states’ implementation of the low-income housing tax credit; private and public sector development and construction industries; and rental market for assisted rental housing.

The bill also calls on the task for to develop “strategies and pathways for low-income housing.” The report must be submitted to the Governor, Senate President and Speaker of the House by Jan. 1 2018.

A companion bill has not yet been filed in the Florida House.

 

Tom Grady

Jeff Atwater’s surprise departure makes CFO job the hottest in state

Never mind who’s running for Governor in 2018, Floridians want to know which Republicans are in the running for Florida Chief Financial Officer now that CFO Jeff Atwater announced he is leaving this year, with speculation starting with Tom GradyTom Lee, Will Weatherford and Teresa Jacobs and including seven or eight others.

Grady, a securities lawyer who is a former state representative who also has held several positions in state government, is widely reported as a close friend of Gov. Rick Scott, who will select a replacement for Atwater for the nearly two full years left in the term.

Weatherford, a venture capital and business consultant, is a former Speaker of the House who draws praise from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and who recently announced he’s not running for Governor.

Jacobs is the Orange County Mayor and a former banker who always sounds like she’s already someone’s chief financial officer, and who reportedly has been exploring a possible state run for that job in 2018 when she’s term-limited from the mayor’s office.

Names tumbling around Tallahassee  – some with more spin than others – also already have included Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, former Speakers Steve Crisafulli and Dean Cannon, state Sens. Jack LatvalaAaron BeanJeff BrandesLee and Lizbeth Benacquisto, state Rep. Jim Boyd, former state Sen. Pat Neal, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Atwater was once a widely-speculated candidate for Governor himself, but that buzz cooled to nothing and on Friday he surprised much of Florida’s political establishment by announcing that he’s planning office to become vice president for strategic initiatives and chief financial officer at Florida Atlantic University after the Florida Legislative Session.

Besides overseeing the states’s financial operations and financial and insurance regulations, as well as the state fire marshal’s office, the job is a full-voting position on the Florida Cabinet. It’s normally filled by statewide vote, for a four-year term, and Atwater was to be term-limited out with the 2018 election.

Atwater’s office’s imminent availability is so fresh almost no one has had time to actually declare interest in it. No one has filed to run in 2018.

Said Brandes in a tweet Friday, “I haven’t talked to the governor yet, but if I was asked, I would carefully consider it.”

Grady, from Scott’s hometown of Naples, has been looking around. He recently was interviewed for the open president’s post at Florida Gulf Coast University, and last cycle talked briefly about running for Congress in Florida’s 19th District. Last year he declined an opportunity to become the state’s insurance commissioner. He’s on the state board of education, is a former commissioner of financial regulations and a former interim president of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. the state-chartered insurer of last resort.

Once this is done there may be another opening on the cabinet, as state Attorney General Pam Bondi remains a widely-speculated prospect to move on to Washington as part of President Donald Trump‘s team.

Jason Brodeur introduces autonomous vehicle legislation in Florida House

Sanford House Republican Jason Brodeur announced Thursday he filed a bill related to autonomous vehicles.

HB 275 would streamline the process for rue self-driving vehicles on public roads in Florida.

“With more than 90 percent of crashes in 2015 being the result of human error, autonomous vehicles have the potential to eliminate this error and transform the way we travel,” Brodeur said in a statement.  “I am proud to support HB 725 this session, as Florida is largely recognized as the nation’s leader in autonomous vehicle public policy.  But in order to maintain this position and encourage companies to begin testing and deploying in the Sunshine State, we must address the current laws governing motor vehicle operation that never contemplated a driverless future.”

As Brodeur mentioned, Florida is considered on the cutting edge when it comes to autonomous vehicle policy, strongly led by St. Petersburg GOP Senator Jeff Brandes, an unbridled enthusiast for the technology. Brandes originally sponsored legislation in 2012 encouraging the testing and study of automated vehicles in Florida.

Last year the Florida Legislature unanimously backed HB 7027, Brandes bill that made Florida the first state in the nation to legalize fully autonomous vehicles on public roads without a driver behind the wheel. “That’s a game changer,” Brandes said this past November in Tampa at an autonomous vehicle summit, claiming that the law makes every 30-year plan created by various state and local agencies “wrong.”

House advances bill for statewide ride-sharing regulations

A Florida House committee advanced a bill Wednesday to implement statewide regulations on ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

Sponsored by Republicans Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor and Jamie Grant of Tampa, HB 221 addresses issues that have been vexing state lawmakers for the last three Sessions.

If passed, drivers would need to carry insurance coverage worth $50,000 for death and bodily injury per person, $100,000 for death and bodily injury per incident and $25,000 for property damage when picking up passengers.

Coverage would jump to a minimum of $1 million in coverage in the case of death, bodily injury and property damage while a passenger is in the vehicle.

The issue regarding the level of background checks of ride-sharing drivers has also become a huge matter for various Florida municipalities in the past few years, with representatives for Uber and Lyft adamant that their drivers do not need the same Level II background checks as cabdrivers.

Instead, drivers must have multistate/multijurisdictional criminal background checks, as well as one for the national sex offender database and a complete driving history.

Now that ride-sharing companies have begun working with local transit agencies on paratransit and first mile/last mile rides, the issue of parity remains critical, said Dwight Mattingly, a bus operator from Palm Beach County.

“I’m hoping that it will be recognized that anybody that handles, whether they’re Uber drivers, Lyft drivers or taxi drivers, will be subject to the same training and same knowledge to handle these people that I have,” he said.

The main objections to Uber and Lyft since they began operating in Florida has come from the taxi industry.

“We’re just looking for a level playing field,” said Louie Minardi with the Florida Taxicab Association. His group still has concerns about the bill, both regarding insurance and working with the requirements of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).

Although the bill passed 14-1 in the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee (Miami Gardens Democrat Barbara Watson was the lone dissenter), several members said the bill needed to be strengthened moving forward before getting final approval.

Coconut Creek Democrat Kristen Diane Jacobs said that because there are now so many Uber and Lyft drivers picking up fares at Fort Lauderdale’s airport and seaport, Broward County has contemplated building staging lots to handle the excess, and seeking reimbursement. Those local negotiations “will disappear under the current structure,” she said.

Those local negotiations “will disappear under the current structure,” she said.

Jacobs also wants ride-sharing companies to place a logo on their cars as an added layer of safety.

After the successful vote, officials with both Uber and Lyft immediately issued news releases hailing the development.

“We applaud Reps. Sprowls and Grant and the subcommittee for moving forward with this important legislation,” said Chelsea Harrison, senior policy communications manager for Lyft. “This is the first step in implementing a uniform statewide approach to ride-sharing that fosters innovation and stimulates Florida’s economy. We look forward to working with the Legislature as it continues to advance rules that prioritize public safety and expand consumer choice for all Floridians.”

“The bipartisan vote today on HB 221 by the Florida House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee is the first step toward ensuring ride-sharing has a permanent place in Florida,” said Javi Correoso, public affairs manager for Uber Florida. “Uber has become an integral part of local transportation systems, and this legislation will help expand opportunities to better connect communities.

The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America also applauded Wednesday’s vote.

“Many rideshare drivers operate under their personal auto insurance policy, which will not cover them if they are in an accident while using their vehicle for hire,” said Logan McFaddin, PCI’s regional manager for State Government Relations. “HB 221 brings much-needed clarity and consistency to insurance coverage requirements for TNC drivers in Florida and strikes the right balance between protecting consumers and supporting innovation.”

The bill now needs only to go through the Government Accountability Committee before heading to the House floor.

St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes is sponsoring the Senate version (SB 340), where similar legislation died in 2016.

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