Tampa GOP state Representative Jamie Grant has filed a bill (HB 647) that would eliminate the controversial Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.
“With new information being made public every day, it becomes increasingly clear that this agency needs to be abolished,” Grant said in a statement. “Everything that has come to light has confirmed what we knew all along; that this agency no longer serves a useful purpose and the residents of Hillsborough County deserve better.”
That ‘new information’ Grant is referring to is the continued negative reports regarding the PTC’s former Kyle Cockream, who resigned at the end of last year.
Over the weekend, expletive-laden text messages between Cockream and PTC chief inspector Brett Saunders surfaced in a story published in the Tampa Bay Times. They were discovered as a result of an investigation being conducted against the PTC by a Sarasota law firm.
Cockream resigned last fall (the second time that he had announced he would be leaving the agency) after former PTC chairman Victor Crist called for an investigation as the result of reports about Cockream showing favoritism towards the taxicab industry. The PTC regulates all vehicle-for-hire companies in Hillsborough County, which over the past three years has included trying to get transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft to come to terms with the PTC.
For years, the PTC had agents who had been issuing citations against Uber and Lyft drivers for operating illegally in the county. The PTC and the ridesharing companies did finally come to an agreement last fall.
The announcement of Grant’s legislation is no surprise, as the entire Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation voted to support the bill when he proposed it back in December. It calls for the agency to end all operations on December 31, 2017.
As of now it is not certain who would inherit the duties of the PTC, although every other county in the state finds a way to do so (the PTC is the only type of agency of its kind in Florida). The Board of County Commissioners could be that agency, although Tax Collector Doug Belden has recently said his office could take over those responsibilities.