Uber Archives - Page 3 of 27 - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Hillsborough rideshare decision could rest with ‘problem solver’ Ken Hagan

Ken Hagan has been elected five times to the Hillsborough County Commission. That ought to say something about the way voters feel he takes care of both his and the public’s business.

Headlines tend to find him because he always seems to be involved in something important, but I wouldn’t say he seeks out publicity. Not at all. He tends to fly at treetop level, quietly working to get things done.

And as Peter Schorsch of this great website just noted, Hagan now potentially finds himself as the key vote to moving ahead, finally, with an agreement that could end the standoff between the Public Transportation Commission and ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft.

Here’s what I know about Hagan: He is a pragmatist who solves problems. He doesn’t get ruffled. He is sharp, well-informed, and not afraid to swim against the tide.

As a member of the PTC, Hagan now finds himself in the position for which he is well-suited — that of being a voice of reason. The PTC, as you probably know, has tried (and largely failed) to bring Uber and Lyft under the same umbrella as taxi and limo companies, mostly on the issue of background checks and the rates its drivers should charge.

That has ignored a fundamental truth — Uber and Lyft have as much in common with taxi companies as a plow horse has with a Kentucky Derby winner. Sure, you can ride both of them, but that’s where the comparison ends.

Since consumers just like the ride-sharing companies better, Uber and Lyft have leveraged that into a considerable lead in the battle for public opinion approval. People, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, are openly calling for the PTC to be disbanded. Critics call it archaic.

It’s a perfect situation for someone like Hagan to take the lead in reaching a settlement that makes at least most of the people happy.

I should admit I haven’t always agreed with Hagan. He took the lead on offering public subsidies to Bass Pro Shops in exchange for the company putting a store in Brandon. I thought then, and still think now, that it undercut mom-and-pop stores that specialized in outdoor and fishing gear.

After all, if it makes financial sense to open a business in a certain location — and judging by the traffic I regularly see at Bass Pro in Brandon, it certainly did — then why offer public incentives?

I will agree, though, that Hagan honestly saw it as the only way to attract a business he felt was beneficial for the area.

And I also will admit that I am glad to see Hagan involved in stadium talks with the Tampa Bay Rays in Hillsborough. I think his pragmatic approach will be in evidence there, too. If they ever reach a deal, it won’t look anything like the giveaway the county reached 20 years ago with the Bucs to build Raymond James Stadium.

First things first, though. Getting a deal done with Uber and Lyft is important for the county. Having it potentially in Hagan’s hands is not a bad thing.

Will Ken Hagan save ridesharing in Hillsborough?

They say the past is prologue. If that’s true, past votes and actions by Hillsborough County’s Public Transportation Commission can give us a glimpse at how the showdown over ridesharing may unfold.

And it looks like it could all be in the hands of one board member: Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan.

Oct. 13 is the date of the public hearing that could determine the future of ridesharing in Hillsborough County. That’s when the PTC is expected to vote to finalize new regulations for ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft. Among the contentious issues are Level II background checks and Public Vehicle Driver Licenses.

Five votes in favor of the new regulations allowed the plan to advance to this point, with only Hagan and Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco in dissent.

Hagan has shown a preference for wanting to reach a settlement both parties can agree on. He supported opening negotiations to develop a temporary operating agreement between the PTC and ridesharing companies, rather than simply adopting a scheme that one side or the other would end up hating.

With the board seemingly split down the middle on the proposed regulations, Hagan has a real opportunity to listen to the wishes of his constituents and come out a hero on behalf of innovation.

The people of Hillsborough County have spoken out pretty clearly in support of ridesharing. They use it — all the time. Thousands have signed a petition to keep their community from becoming the next Austin, which Uber and Lyft earlier left earlier this year due to similar enforced regulations by a city council that wouldn’t embrace innovation.

This is Hagan’s opportunity to listen to the those in the community who disapprove of competition-limiting regulations. Earlier this month the head of government affairs and policy for the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce spoke out against the PTC and the taxicab industry in Hillsborough, declaring that there’s no excuse for the commission “to limit any further economic growth of a region by over-regulating an industry that’s being rightfully challenged by innovation.”

Proponents of the regulations include PTC member and Temple Terrace Councilman David Pogorilich, who has cited safety as the main concern for constituents. However, the thousands of Uber and Lyft supporters reject the claim that the regulations are anything more than a stifling ploy to reduce competition and inhibit innovation.

In just a few months, the Legislature is expected to take a comprehensive look at ridesharing from a statewide perspective. So in the meantime, there’s really no need for the PTC to adopt regulations that will divide the community.

If it’s all in Ken Hagan’s hands, let’s hope he sides with the future — and the public.

Uber agrees to proposed new rules — but will Hillsborough’s PTC follow suit?

An official with Uber said Thursday the San Francisco-based ridesharing company has come to an agreement regarding background checks and other new rules proposed by outgoing Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission Chair Victor Crist to have them finally operate legally in the county.

Whether they will be approved by the rest of the PTC remains uncertain at this point. The board will vote on the new rules on Oct. 13.

The announcement was made at a press conference held at the County Center in Tampa, with Uber’s Stephanie Smith joining Crist in expressing her company’s agreement with the new proposal. Officials with Lyft were not present. Crist said attorneys with that transportation network company were still going over the fine details of the agreement, but said he believed they would announce their support within the next 24 hours.

“We have been operating for almost three years in Hillsborough County without a regulatory framework that recognizes the nature of ridesharing options like Uber now operates,” said Smith, senior policy manager at Uber. “We believe this agreement represents the most responsible and clearest path forward, and we look forward to continuing the conversations over the next two weeks.”

The proposed new rules are stronger than current regulations regarding background checks — but they are not Level II, meaning no fingerprinting of ridesharing drivers. Both companies have said they would leave town if they were ordered to comply with that regulation, as they did in Austin, Texas earlier this year.

The PTC voted earlier this month to approve new rules that required Level II background checks. The newly proposed rules are being called Level I “plus 6,” which would request all criminal records throughout the U.S. on where the driver has lived within the last seven years. That would include federal court records, state and national sex offender database searchs, the FBI’s most-wanted list, Interpol’s most-wanted list, the DEA’s most-wanted list, and OFAC’s (Office of Foreign Asset Control) most-wanted list.

Crist said after attempting for more than two-and-a-half years to find a regulatory framework that could stick with ridesharing companies, he learned through PTC attorneys that the agency could propose new rules as a part of a court settlement.

Both Uber and Lyft currently have asked the 2nd District Court of Appeal to rule that the agency regulating for-hire vehicles in Hillsborough has no jurisdiction over ridesharing. Crist said that if done as a court settlement, there would be a contract in place, and if the companies don’t follow them they would be in contempt of court.

The proposed agreement is for 15 months. It calls for Uber to pay a $250,000 annual fee to operate in the county, and Lyft would pay $125,000. Why the difference? Because there are twice as many Uber vehicles operating in the county than there are Lyft cars. Violators will incur a penalty fee of $2,500, and a second-time incident will have a fee of $5,000.

Once a vehicle becomes registered with Uber, there will be a 21-day grace period before PTC license inspectors can check out those cars. There will be a 42-day grace period for existing vehicles currently registered with the PTC.

“We agree that the vehicle-for-hire industry is evolving and that the ridesharing industry is here to stay,” said Louie Minardi, president of Yellow Cab in Tampa. “We also believe that a level playing field helps to ensure both fair competition on equal terms and also promotes choices when it comes to public transportation.  Although we have not had an opportunity to review the proposed agreement between Uber and Commissioner Crist, in the spirit of cooperation and fairness, we are amenable to considering the same or similar temporary rules and regulations for ALL Transportation Network Companies and the taxi industry.”

Minardi also said the taxicab industry “still believes strongly that 1) Level II driver background checks (which include records in other states and fingerprint scans), 2) accessible commercial umbrella insurance from carriers vetted by the State of Florida, 3) vehicle inspections and 4) compliance with state and federal Americans with Disabilities Act provisions should be the minimum standard.”

Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco was the only member of the PTC besides Crist at the press conference. He said with light-rail still years away from happening (if ever) in the county, the agreement is good for local transportation for Hillsborough County.

“Coming to this agreement is good. It shows that we are embracing innovation, that we embrace technology,”  he said, adding that too much government regulation stifles progress.

When asked if he believes that the PTC will approve his proposal, Crist said he believes there are three certain yes votes and three certain no votes, with Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan being the swing vote. Hagan did not return a call for comment on Thursday.

Kevin Hernandez: Uber, Lyft drive economic growth; regulators say, ‘Thanks, but no thanks’

kevin-hernandez-hispanic-chamber-of-commerce
Kevin Hernandez

As the backbone of a strong free-market economy, competition helps drive economic growth — incentivizing innovation, creating jobs, and ensuring the quality of goods and services is continuously improving.

It’s innovation and competition that’s led to the creation of Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) which are lowering costs for consumers, moving more people with fewer cars on the road, and expanding access to areas which aren’t friendly to public transportation. TNCs are growing rapidly in use and popularity, and require a steady and growing supply of drivers to keep pace with area demand.

Sadly, however, in Tampa, Hillsborough County’s Public Transportation Commission (PTC) Wednesday decided to stifle competition and limit opportunities for many, after voting 5-2 in favor of mandatory fingerprint-based background checks for TNC drivers.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because a few months ago a nearly identical regulation was passed in Austin.

As a result, Uber and Lyft decided to no longer provide their services in the Greater Austin area — leaving hundreds of thousands without access to these alternative platforms.

The real losers in such cases are both the drivers who relied on TNCs to help make ends meet, and the consumers who now have to revert to being at the mercy of unreliable taxi cab companies. Rather than listening to an overwhelming majority of constituents who voiced their support for ridesharing services, the Hillsborough County PTC has decided to dismiss public opinion and help a dying taxi industry — further demonstrating the corrupt behavior that defines cronyism.

What’s also troubling are the unintended consequences brought on by fingerprint background checks. The fact that fingerprint background checks may catch arrests without a conviction should quickly raise alarm bells to any public official. New fingerprint-based background checks are unnecessary and duplicative of the already existing background checks, which include rigorous in-person screenings and vehicle inspections. The new regulations only raise costs, narrow the pool of prospective drivers, and slow the growth of an essential economic sector in Tampa — without measurably enhancing public safety.

However, the true crime of fingerprinting rests in how it disproportionately impacts minority communities. African-American and other minorities, including Hispanics, are disproportionately arrested. Approximately one-third of these arrests, even for the most serious felonies, never result in a conviction. An individual should not fail a background check, and possibly lose a work opportunity, because he or she was arrested but never convicted of a crime.

Hispanic and African-American entrepreneurs already face major challenges in launching and expanding a business, and the PTC’s new rules create yet another unfair and unnecessary obstacle for minority entrepreneurs to pursue their American dream.

Now is not the time to minimize economic opportunities. Plenty of cities have struggled to bounce back from the 2008 housing market crash, but Tampa’s economy is at its strongest since the recession.

There’s no excuse for an archaic regulatory commission to limit any further economic growth of a region by over-regulating an industry that’s being rightfully challenged by innovation. It’s time local regulators quit picking winners and losers, and embrace a 21st-century economy where ride-sharing services are offering consumers innovative alternatives to a traditional, and often unchallenged, service.

It’s simple … Either adapt to a 21st-century economy where innovation is inevitable, or fall behind and suppress local economic growth.

___

Kevin Hernandez is the director of Government Affairs & Policy at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Uber marks National PARK(ing) Day with mini ‘park’ in downtown Tampa

Who doesn’t love a nice park, even one as small as a parking space?

To honor National PARK(ing) Day, ridesharing service Uber will transform one parking spot in downtown Tampa into a mini park for the public to enjoy.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, Uber will set up a mini “park” – complete with artificial grass, games and Uber signage — located on a single parking spot outside of Chase Bank on the 200 block of East Jackson Street in Tampa.

First celebrated in 2005 in San Francisco, National PARK(ing) Day has become an annual event where artists, activists and citizens all over the country simultaneously “claim” a metered parking spot — paying the metered rate — and transform the space into a temporary park.

Held on the third Friday of September, National PARK(ing) Day seeks to raise awareness of how parking in urban areas are some of the most inefficient uses of space. Uber, which also is based in San Francisco, uses the event as part of its mission to tackle the parking problem by offering transportation alternatives to personal car ownership.

Uber is also encouraging residents across Florida to participate in this campaign by claiming a metered spot (legally) for their own micro park — which can then be used for artistic expression, address a variety of social issues or just a place to chill out.

As Uber and PARK(ing) Day celebrants say: No “park” is too small.

Mitch Perry Report for 9.15.16 — One less #NeverTrump option for president in Florida

#NeverTrump conservatives in Florida have one less option to choose for president in November now.

Evan McMullin, a 40-year-old former CIA official from Utah, has been proposed as a conservative alternative to Trump. He was the nominee of the Independent Party in Florida, but has been removed from the ballot by the Florida Division of Elections because the Independent Party is not a recognized national party by the Federal Elections Commission — a requirement of state law to get on the ballot.

McMullin is only on the ballot in 10 states so far, making his attempt to deny both Trump and Hillary Clinton the opportunity to get 270 electoral votes less likely.

Meanwhile, Libertarian Gary Johnson‘s campaign announced Tuesday he will be the first third-party presidential candidate to appear on the ballot in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., since 1996. An internal McMullin memo reported on by POLITICO argues the Utah native is the much better choice for conservatives.

“With all due respect, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are narrow-gauge candidates of limited national appeal,” the memo reads. “Whether it’s Stein’s warmed-over magical-thinking socialism and weirdness, or Gary Johnson’s astonishingly weak and dangerous positions on foreign affairs and religious liberty, no other third-party or independent candidate has the background, experience, intelligence, and policy strengths Evan McMullin brings to the national debate.”

Then again, if you’re a conservative whose main passion is making sure to deny Clinton the presidency, you ought to be happy about Johnson (and to a lesser extent Stein’s) presence in the race.

Two new battleground state polls shows the “Johnson effect” in action. A CNN poll shows Trump leading Clinton in Ohio 46-41 in Ohio with Johnson taking 8 percent, and Trump winning 47-44 in Florida, with Johnson at 6 percent.

In other news …

There was plenty coming out of yesterday’s Hillsborough County PTC meeting on new rules regulating Uber and Lyft.

The CEO of an aspiring ridesharing company who’d like to enter the Tampa market, said after the meeting that wouldn’t be happening anytime soon.

HD 60 Republican candidate Jackie Toledo blasted the agency after the vote.

Toledo’s Democratic opponent, David Singer, feels likewise, but otherwise says the two don’t see eye-to-eye on the issues whatsoever.

Singer later bashed Toledo for “ducking” a Tampa Tiger Bay debate this Friday.

Before the PTC got into the whole ridesharing thang, they got a piece of Pat Frank’s mind.

The teenage victim in a sexual abuse case blasts Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober.

HD 60 GOP candidate Jackie Toledo slams PTC’s ridesharing regulations

Like the many Tampa Bay area GOP state lawmakers she wants to join in Tallahassee this November, Jackie Toledo said Wednesday she is disgusted by the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission’s approval of new regulations that could ultimately lead ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft to leave the region.

“The rules passed by the PTC are clear examples of abuse of power and bureaucratic overreach, plain and simple,” the House District 60 Republican candidate said in a statement issued shortly after the vote came down. “They are designed to push ridesharing companies out of Hillsborough County in favor of a corrupted special interest group with deep pockets.”

On Tuesday, Dana Young, current occupant of the HD 60 seat in South Tampa and western Hillsborough County, penned a letter to the PTC co-signed by virtually the entire Tampa Bay area legislative delegation, with the exception of Tampa Democrats Ed Narain and Arthenia Joyner (Narain informs us that he was never asked to sign on to the letter). The missive called the PTC’s proposed new rules — which included a Level II background check for ridesharing drivers that includes fingerprinting — “plainly designed to be an anti-competitive attempt to push ridesharing companies out of Hillsborough County.”

“If this occurs,” Young added, “our constituents will pay the price by losing a safe and reliable transportation option.”

Young, along with Tampa Bay area Republicans Jeff Brandes and Jamie Grant, supported Uber’s entrance into the Hillsborough market in the spring of 2014 with enthusiasm, and have been persistent critics of the PTC. However, they’ve not been able to persuade their colleagues to date in Tallahassee to pass a statewide regulatory framework for ridesharing companies, leaving it to local governments like the PTC to work it out. Uber and Lyft continue to face similar issues of not being in compliance in Orange and Duval counties, though they were able to clear up their issues over the past year in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

In her statement, Toledo is now calling for the PTC to be “disbanded.”

“For too long, the PTC has stood in the way of innovation and the free market,” she said. “The rules passed today are a clear indication that the PTC is more interested in doing what is best interest of special interest groups than what is in the best interest of those who live, work, and visit the Tampa Bay area. It is a glaring example of why we need leaders in Tallahassee who can stand up for pro-consumer policies and push back against efforts by unelected bureaucrats to thwart the will of the people.”

Toledo is running against Democrat David Singer in the HD 60 race. Late this afternoon he, too, said that he did not approve of the PTC’s actions.

“Innovative technologies like Uber and Lyft provide a much-needed boost to our set of transportation options,” he said.

“We are a large and growing metro area, and we should do everything that we can to encourage inventive, market-driven solutions that help our community,” Singer continued. “We need to position Tampa and Hillsborough County as ahead of the curve on new technology so that we can effectively compete with other growing markets. I’m not in favor of regulations passed by the PTC today that stifle innovation and may cause Uber and Lyft to leave our market.”

Hillsborough PTC approves new rules — Future uncertain for Uber and Lyft

The Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission Wednesday voted 5-2 on proposed new rules that still include requiring Level II background checks for Uber and Lyft drivers — a mandate representatives from those companies have said would compel them to leave the market.

Though theoretically the new rules would allow new ridesharing companies to enter the market, the proprietor of one such company said after the meeting he would not enter the market operating under different rules than Uber and Lyft. The new rules could be implemented after a public hearing is held next month. Board members Guido Maniscalco and Ken Hagan dissented.

Other new provisions approved include allowing a driver to operate a car up to 10 years old, and allowing surge pricing up to 10 times their normal fare, but not during a time of emergency. However, the board did jettison two other controversial provisions voted on in a committee last week that would require a seven-minute waiting period and a $7 minimum fare.

When asked if the Level II background checks approved will now compel Uber to leave the market, Colin Tooze, public affairs manager with Uber, said that was a “business choice that we’ll have to make.”

“We’re going to wait and see what the rules look like,” Tooze added.

In addition to approving the new rules, the PTC board also voted to continue negotiations with the two rideshare firms to resolve ongoing lawsuits. A settlement agreement certified by a court could end the legal battles, but PTC Chair Victor Crist said the agency must maintain the Level II background checks as part of operating under a Special Act. Commissioners, however, could lobby the state Legislature to change that requirement.

Tooze said he thought the vote to discuss a possible settlement was a positive move, and unveiled a copy of the company’s own temporary operating agreement, which he said would include background screening requirements for all drivers before they are allowed to operate an Uber vehicle, including criminal and motor vehicle records screening along with national databases. It would also include $1 million in commercial auto liability insurance for every trip, semi-annual audits, and record checks by the PTC. He dismissed the notion that the PTC’s hands were tied because of the Special Act requiring Level II background checks.

“I’m skeptical that anyone’s hands are tied here,” he said about the PTC’s Level II requirement. “They’ve shown remarkable latitude in how they interpret the rules, how they interpret the Florida Constitution … where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

More than a hundred people — most of them Uber and/or Lyft drivers — flooded the county center’s chambers for the meeting.

Zach Jacobs presented a petition with 4,189 signatures of people in support of Uber and Lyft operating in Hillsborough. “Tampa’s only getting bigger, and we need to start acting like a big city” he said in support of why ridesharing services were essential to the region’s economic growth.

Topher Morrison dismissed the notion that using background checks that require fingerprinting is the gold standard and would guarantee customers a safe ride. He cited a National Institute of Justice report released earlier this year that reported that on average, 1,100 police officers (who are fingerprinted) are arrested every year in the U.S. He also mentioned the scandalous case of former Tampa school teacher Debra Lafave, who pled guilty to lewd or lascivious battery following a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old male student in the summer of 2004.

“This teacher and every other teacher in America needed to get fingerprint background checks,” Justin Morganman said. “Do you really think fingerprint checks are going to be different in any other industry? The answer is no, they won’t. Because past records don’t predict future behavior. We live in a weird world. And some people commit crimes.”

But Morganman said it was a “myth” that if forced to undertake Level II background checks, Uber and Lyft would leave the region. “They can stay. They can follow the rules, I know this because they do this in other cities like New York and Houston.”

“It’s time we passed these rules,” said attorney Seth Mills, who represents taxi companies in Tampa. “The truth is, they probably won’t follow them anyway,” he added. “We’re going to be in litigation, but don’t let that stop you.”

This is by no means the end of the road to this process. If the rules are approved again at the Oct. 13 PTC meeting, Uber and Lyft could request another state-level hearing to review the rules. If that is upheld, the PTC would then request an injunction to enforce the rules.

Also today, Hillsborough-Pinellas state Rep. Jamie Grant voiced his opposition to the proposed PTC rules via Facebook, where he showed a letter he sent to the Federal Trade Commission asking whether or not the proposed rules violate federal laws because they were written by taxicab and other ridesharing companies and not the PTC.

PTC board members spoke excitedly about getting new ridesharing companies to begin operating out of Hillsborough County, such as Phoenix-based Fare. However, the company’s CEO, Michael Leto, said after the meeting that he wouldn’t dare try to operate in the county until he knew everyone was working under the same rules. Fare went into the Austin, Texas market after Uber left there in May.

Mitch Perry Report for 9.14.16 — Steve Crisafulli goes there

Outgoing Florida Speaker of the House Steve Crisafulli penned an opinion piece yesterday slamming Hillary Clinton‘s now-infamous “basket of deplorables” phrase to describe half of Donald Trump‘s supporters.

“By calling so many of our nation’s citizens ‘deplorable’ haters and racists and the other half too stupid to make their own decisions about who should be our next president, Hillary once again revealed how the elitist Clintons really view Americans,” Crisafulli wrote.

Similar Trump surrogates echoes similar statements last weekend, but not that many House Republicans.

As the New York Times reports this morning, GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence pretty much struck out in a visit to Capitol Hill in getting his former colleagues to join in deploring Clinton for her “basket of deplorables” remark.

In separate news conferences, House and Senate Republican leaders declined to join Mr. Pence, the Indiana governor and vice-presidential nominee, in rebuking Mrs. Clinton over her remark.

Mr. Pence wound up raising the subject only when pressed by a reporter — and then gave a halting answer in which he would not call David Duke, a white supremacist and onetime Ku Klux Klan leader, “deplorable.” He insisted instead that Mrs. Clinton did not have “that bad man” in mind when she assailed Mr. Trump’s supporters.

You might have seen Pence on Monday night, when he refused to take the bait from CNN’s Wolf Blitzer when asked if Duke could be considered “deplorable.”

“The simple fact is that I am not in the name-calling business,” Pence said, which he again repeated yesterday in D.C.

“Is the factory worker looking for a job that Hillary helped send overseas deplorable?” Crisafulli wrote yesterday. “Are the families whose sons and daughters fight for our country deplorable? Are the millions of Americans who simply want her to tell the truth deplorable? If asking these questions is reason for Hillary to put someone in a basket — she can throw me in too.”

Needless to say, Crisafulli is all in when it comes to supporting Trump for president. Obviously, the rest of his party isn’t nearly that unified.

Meanwhile, the Real Clear Politics average has Trump up by .01 percent over Clinton in Florida, and down only two points nationally.

In other news…

Patrick Murphy used the opportunity of getting endorsed by a political action committee formed after the Pulse nightclub shooting to blast Marco Rubio’s votes on gun safety.

Tampa millennials gathered Monday night in Ybor City to talk transportation and how Hillary Clinton’s plan for infrastructure improvements could help the area if she’s elected.

Dana Young and a host of other (mostly Republican) state lawmakers from the Tampa Bay area are warning the Hillsborough PTC not to pass rules that could prompt Uber and Lyft to leave Tampa.

The AFL-CIO is dropping more than 50,000 mailers to union families in Florida this week touting their support for Hillary Clinton.

CD 15’s Dennis Ross has signed on to a House bill that would prohibit any further payments to Iran from the U.S. government.

Southern Strategy Group snags Uber’s local lobbying contract

In a significant “get” for the state’s largest government affairs firm, Southern Strategy Group (SSG) will rep global ride-hailing service Uber for its local-level needs.

The deal comes as ridesharing services heat up the news again.

Most recently, in Tampa Bay, House Republican Leader Dana Young demanded in a letter that local regulators scuttle proposed rules that Uber and others say will force them out of the local market.

Young’s letter was cosigned by 12 members of the Tampa Bay area legislative delegation.

Ballard Partners will continue to handle lobbying for the company at the legislative and state agency level.

SSG will help Uber at the city level, especially in places like Orlando, where lobbyist Kelly Cohen is close to Mayor Buddy Dyer, a Democrat.

SSG also is no longer repping Mears Transportation, a Central Florida taxi and hired-car provider. It controls most of the taxi business in Orlando, as well as much of the charter bus service.

Mears, and its adjunct, the Florida Taxicab Association, have been going head-to-head with Uber as the San Francisco-based company fights to break into — and stay in — local markets across Florida.

It will be interesting to see who picks up Mears next session, as we wait for an epic battle between Uber aficionados like state Sen. Jeff Brandes and soon-to-be House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and state Sen. Jack Latvala, the new Senate budget chief, on the other side.

Stay tuned…

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