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Hillsborough PTC chief tells House committee he still wants ride-share drivers fingerprinted

The executive director for the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission told Florida lawmakers on Wednesday he’s OK if they ban his agency from regulating ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

Kyle Cockream came before the House Economics Committee to speak in support of the bill, sponsored by Republican Dana Young from Tampa and Plant City’s Dan Raulerson. Young told the committee that it’s substantially similar to a bill proposed by Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz that overwhelmingly passed the entire House earlier in the session.

The local bill provides for background checks, insurance and vehicle inspections. And it includes two provisions that would allow for low-speed circulators to operate in downtown Tampa.

Cockream did say that he opposes the fact that the Gaetz bill only calls for a Level 1 background check for ridesharing drivers. He wants a Level 2 background check, which would require all ridesharing drivers to get fingerprinted.

“A Level 2 background check is the only background check that looks to the future,” Cockream told lawmakers. “Once a person has their fingerprints put into the system, should they get into trouble in the state of Florida anywhere, the local regulators are then alerted to that issue.”

Cockream says under a Level 1 check, an Uber or Lyft driver could be arrested for a DUI in one part of the state without that information being distributed to law enforcement in another country. And he said that the information generated by a Level 2 background goes through federal and international law agencies like the FBI and Interpol. “That check touches every single state in the country, a Level 1 background check does not,” he said.

Young’s bill passed at the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation meeting in December, but was opposed by three Democrats in based Tampa, including state Rep. Ed Narian.

Narian said on Wednesday that since he’s learned more about background checks, he’s sufficiently satisfied with a Level 1 check. His major criticism of the legislation now is that such backgrounds checks would only occur once a year.

Referring to his children possibly using Uber or Lyft in the future, Narain said, “I want to make sure that the person that’s driving them didn’t get on the platform in January, do something in February, and nobody knows until the following year.”

Dania Beach Democrat Joseph Geller supported a proposed amendment on the Gaetz bill in when it was voted on in the House that would have required ridesharing to undergo Level 2 background checks (the measure failed). He said he still believed that was the case, but said he would support the bill anyway.

Last month, the City Council in Austin, Texas, passed an ordinance that calls for Uber and Lyft drivers to voluntarily register and submit their fingerprints with a third party to make it easier for law enforcement to identify lawbreakers. The two companies are resisting the measure.

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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