“Size doesn’t matter”: New Uber legislation clears a hurdle


We've been monitoring AT LENGTH the evolution of Uber (and Lyft) ride-sharing services in Orlando, with a special focus on whether these services are in the same boat with a sort-of Mears monopoly on public/private car services. Uber is relatively new to Orlando, but it's raised enough of a stink to require the sniffs and coughs of your city government, which has been a friend to Mears and all the money that implies. Regardless, the consumers have spoken, and the service(s) have (has?) been embraced whole-heartedly by those who want to get from point A to point B inexpensively and in due time. 

Yesterday, a state House committee pulled the pre-emption card, so well-known to Central Floridians, in terms of whether local governments should have a say in the matter at all. This is obviously some capitalist wing-spreading, but it does raise some important issues. If we're not going to go parcel by parcel on regulatory issues like sick pay or human rights ordinances, are we going to treat entrepreneurial situations in the same manner? All for one, one for all? Hmm. So reports the Politics Fix Florida blog yesterday: 

A House panel on Tuesday cleared a bill that would preempt local regulation of ride-booking services like Uber and Lyft.

uberThe House Transportation and Ports subcommittee approved the measure (HB 817) by a vote of 9-3.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz, would cut out local bodies – including the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission – from regulating the services.

The “transportation network companies” say they’re technology concerns first – not taxi service.

But taxi and limo operators say Uber and others should play by the same rules, including those governing insurance requirements.

In the example of Uber, customers use an application on their smartphone to find available drivers, who generally use their own vehicles – and often don’t have commercial insurance.

The House bill requires up to $1 million in insurance for death, personal injury, and property damage while the driver is “on duty.”

Rep. Barbara Watson, a Miami Gardens Democrat, noted that a million dollar limit may be not enough in some instances and complained that the bill didn’t address the size of cars used.

“Size doesn’t matter,” Gaetz said.

Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, also said making ride-booking services follow local regulations is unduly cumbersome, especially in South Florida with its many municipalities.

“The bill takes the view that we are one state,” he said.

It also mandates zero tolerance of drivers’ drug and alcohol use while on duty, require drivers to show identification and offer electronic receipts.

The legislation moves next to the Economic Affairs committee.

A similar bill (SB 1326) by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, will be heard by that chamber’s Regulated Industries committee.

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