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Florida Senate May Pick Up Aspects of House ‘Uber’ Bill

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Lyft cars are easily recognizable because of the pink mustaches on the front of their hoods. (Photo courtesy Spiros Vathis/Flickr)
Lyft cars are easily recognizable because of the pink mustaches on the front of their hoods. (Photo courtesy of Spiros Vathis/Flickr)

TALLAHASSEE — A lane may be opening in the Senate for a potential compromise on a heavily lobbied proposal involving app-based transportation services such as Uber and Lyft.

The Senate and House have taken different positions on the issue, with Senate leaders focused on adding insurance requirements for drivers and the House approving a more-sweeping measure that would block local governments from regulating the ride-sharing services.

But a potential compromise appears to be in the works that would include some form of background checks for drivers and the effort to “preempt” local governments from establishing rules for the fast-growing industry.

The preemption provision has drawn opposition from the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties.

Sen. David Simmons, an Altamonte Springs Republican who has steered the Senate insurance-related bill (SB 1118), said he expects aspects of the House plan (HB 509) will land in his proposal, which awaits a hearing on the Senate floor.

“I think there is a reasonable chance that it’s going to include a certain amount of preemption, but create a level playing field for everyone involved,” Simmons said.

Simmons added that a higher level of background checks desired by some lawmakers, including a procedure requiring fingerprinting, may get additional attention following a string of shootings Saturday in Kalamazoo, Mich., that reportedly involved an Uber driver and left six people dead.

“The event in Michigan is just another example of the necessity of assuring that we do this right … having some methodology to assure that people who are riding around, picking up passengers, are in fact individuals who are not criminals,” Simmons said.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who has backed more of the House approach on the ride-sharing services, said the insurance provisions sought by Simmons and other Senate leaders are “meaningless” without the additional provisions in the House plan.

“The ultimate deal will include preemption, because it doesn’t make sense without it,” Brandes said. “You’ve got 26 cities in Pinellas County, every city could have a different standard.”

But Brandes rejected arguments that higher levels of background checks than what Uber uses in other states are needed because of the Michigan shooting

“That guy had a clean background, he would have passed a level-two background check in Florida,” Brandes said. “Sometimes horrible, horrible things happen and we try to rationalize it.”

Simmons has insisted on higher insurance requirements for ride-sharing drivers than what was included in the House bill, which was approved in a 108-10 vote on Jan. 27.

Under Simmons’ bill, drivers for the services would be required to have $125,000 in coverage for death and bodily injury per person, $250,000 in coverage for death and bodily injury per incident and $50,000 in coverage for property damage when logged on to the network or engaged in prearranged rides.

When not logged into the system, drivers would have to maintain $25,000 in coverage for death and bodily injury per person, $50,000 in coverage for death and bodily injury per incident and $10,000 in coverage for property damage, all levels that are higher than the state’s personal-injury protection insurance requirements.

The House measure would set insurance requirements of $50,000 in coverage for death and bodily injury per person, $100,000 in coverage for death and bodily injury per incident and $25,000 in coverage for property damage while logged on to the network.

Both measures require $1 million in coverage for every vehicle when a passenger is in the vehicle.

About Jim Turner - News Service of Florida

Jim Turner is a reporter for the News Service of Florida, a wire service to which WUFT News subscribes.

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