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Jeff Brandes files medical marijuana implementing bill

Sen. Jeff Brandes wants a total overhaul of the state’s medical marijuana laws, filing legislation to repeal current law dealing with low-THC cannabis and replace it with a new regulatory system.

The St. Petersburg Republican filed the legislation (SB 614) Wednesday. A long-time critic of the current medical marijuana system, Brandes’ bill has the potential to open up the market beyond the seven dispensing organizations under law.

“The overwhelming support of Amendment 2 was a strong mandate that Floridians demand fundamental change to the way we regulate medical marijuana,” said Brandes in a statement. “The laws on the books today promote a state-sanctioned cartel system that limits competition, inhibits access, and results in higher prices for patients. This legislation outright repeals Florida’s defective law.”

Under the proposal, vertical integration of medical marijuana treatment centers is not required. Instead, the bill creates four different function licenses — cultivation, processing, transportation, and retail — that a medical marijuana treatment center can obtain. The bill allows treatment centers to get any combination of licenses. That’s a departure from current law, which requires dispensing organizations, similar to a medical marijuana treatment center, to grow, process and sell their own product.

“Florida should focus on what is best for patients,” he said. “The state today artificially limits the number of marijuana providers, promoting regional monopolies and standing in the way of the physician-patient relationship. This legislation removes those barriers, and will provide expanded access to Floridians who could benefit from the use of these products.”

The cultivation license would allow a license holder to grow and harvest marijuana; while a processing license would allow the permit holder to convert marijuana into a medical marijuana product, like oils, creams and food products, for qualifying patients.

Medical marijuana treatment centers with a transportation license would be allowed to deliver products to other treatment centers. It also allows centers to deliver the product directly to qualified patients, which the proposal states may not be restricted by local jurisdictions.

The proposal restricts retail facilities to 1 license per 25,000 residents. It allows local governments to regulate zoning and safety standards, and allows local governments to prohibit stores from opening up in their community. More than 50 cities across the state already have a zoning moratorium in place banning or restricting dispensaries.

Beyond getting rid of vertical integration, Brandes’ bill opens the door for future growth by removing current requirements, like how long a company needs to be in business or how much of the product they can grow.

“Senator Brandes’ implementing bill does an excellent job of establishing a comprehensive, tightly regulated medical marijuana system in Florida. SB 614 respects both the language of the constitution and the mandate that voters delivered on this issue,” said Ben Pollara, the campaign manager for the United for Care campaign, which backed the medical marijuana constitutional amendment. “The two most essential pieces of implementation are maintaining the primacy of the doctor-patient relationship, and expanding the marketplace to serve patient access. SB 614 does both in a well regulated, well thought out manner.”

Brandes is the second Senate Republican in recent weeks to file a bill focused on implementing Amendment 2, the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment.Last month, Sen. Rob Bradley filed a bill that would, among other things, allow for the growth of medical marijuana treatment centers once the number of registered patients hits a certain number.

Under his proposal, the Department of Health is required register five more medical marijuana treatment centers within six months of 250,000 qualified patients registering with the compassionate use registry. It then allows for more five more treatment centers to receive licenses after the 350,000 qualified patients, 400,000 qualified patients, 500,000 qualified patients, and after each additional 100,000 qualified patients register with the state’s compassionate use registry.

The Department of Health also initiated the process of creating rules and regulations governing Amendment 2 in January. The department has until July to put rules in place to implement Amendment 2, which passed with overwhelming support in November.

Under preliminary rules, medical marijuana treatment centers — which under new rules would be the same as a dispensing organization, must go through the same “approval and selection process” outlined in existing law. Those organizations are also “subject to the same limitations and operational requirements” currently outlined in state law.

A spokeswoman for the health department said in an email last month that agency looks forward to “receiving input from all interested stakeholders through the open and transparent rulemaking process.”

Brandes’ bill also:

— Adds paraplegia, quadriplegia, and terminal conditions to the list of debilitating medical conditions as adopted as part of Amendment 2;

— Establishes criteria for caregivers and requires the background screening of caregivers;

— Restricts patients and caregivers from cultivating their own marijuana, and requires patients obtain marijuana from registered medical marijuana treatment centers;

— Grandfathers in existing dispensing organizations; and

— Applies a sales tax to the sales of marijuana and medical marijuana products.

If Brandes’ proposal makes headway in the Senate, that sales tax issue could run into some trouble in the House. While a House bill hasn’t been filed yet, Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, who is expected to carry the bill, has said the House version won’t include a tax on medical marijuana products.

Split delegation gives Redington Beach chance to regulate short-term rentals

Members of the Pinellas Legislative Delegation voted 6-4 Tuesday to pass a local bill that would give Redington Beach a chance to regulate short-term rentals.

The bill, if passed by the Legislature, would give the town a chance to cure a mistake that was made in 2008 when town officials adopted a rule against short-term rentals.

Although the council approved the ordinance, they did not give voters a chance to endorse the rule during a referendum. A referendum is required by the Town Charter. The item never went to a referendum because the then-town attorney said it was unnecessary.

In 2011, the Legislature passed a statute grandfathering in municipal ordinances that were already on the books but banning cities from passing new rules against short-term rentals.

Redington Beach officials thought their ordinance had been grandfathered, but when they went to shut down a short-term rental, they found out the ordinance was invalid. Their current town attorney advised them not to test it in court.

That decision not to test the ordinance irked some delegation members, who said the town was attempting to make the Legislature solve a problem that it had not tried to solve.

“I appreciate the concerns of the residents. I really do. I represent that area,” state Sen. Jeff Brandes said. “The city is unwilling to stand up and defend its own ordinance.”

Some delegation members were also concerned the ordinance would spark lawsuits against the state and the town. And, they worried that the local bill would be precedent setting.

Brandes, and state Reps. Chris Sprowls, Wengay Newton and Jamie Grant, voted against the proposal. All are Republicans except Newton, who is a Democrat.

The other six members of the delegation voted in favor. If the bill passes the Legislature, the town would be allowed to take the 2008 ordinance to a referendum. If that passed, then the ordinance would become retroactively effective to 2008.

Director of Pinellas construction licensing board retires

Rodney Fisher, the executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board, announced his retirement during a meeting Tuesday of the Pinellas County Legislative Delegation.

Fisher, who has been the target of recent stories in the Tampa Bay Times, referred to those saying, “The issue with the PCCLB should not be about me. … I am retiring as the executive director.”

The stories have alleged that some homeowners and contractors feel “cheated, ignored and even stonewalled” by the agency. As for Fisher, stories have claimed that he is a “bully” who can be “charming and knowledgeable, but also volatile and vindictive.”

The announcement of Fisher’s retirement came as delegation members considered two proposed local bills — one would have dissolved the board; the other would have made changes to the board’s membership.

In the end, the proposal to dissolve the PCCLB was withdrawn while the other was unanimously passed. But it’s unlikely that will be the final solution for the board’s future. State Sen. Jack Latvala, the head of the delegation, appointed state Sen. Jeff Brandes and state Rep. Larry Ahern to meet with Pinellas County Commission Chair Janet Long to try to find a solution.

It’s likely the solution will reflect a proposal sent to the delegation Monday by Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard. The proposal reached the delegation too late to be considered at Tuesday’s meeting. But some delegation members indicated they liked the concepts.

Woodard’s proposal would make three changes to the 1973 act that created the PCCLB:

— Update the names of the nominating organizations and adds a remodeling contractor to the membership of the PCCLB.

— Reinstate term limits, which were a part of the original special act, for the PCCLB members who are not serving as a function of their job with a local government.

— Place all employees of the PCCLB under the County Commission while reporting to the county administrator. Organizationally, this function would report to consumer protection.

Jeff Brandes legislation would create task force focusing on criminal justice

After years of watching other red states leap ahead of them on criminal justice reform, Pinellas County Republican Senator Jeff Brandes is filing a bill that would create a criminal justice task force in the state of Florida in 2017.

It calls for a large committee consisting of 27 members (16 will be appointed) representing the Florida House, Senate, the Governor’s offices and various state agencies, as well as from a victim’s advocacy group, the formerly incarcerated, and the faith community.

The goal would be to take “holistic” review of the state’s criminal justice system, including (but not limited to) sentencing practices, minimum mandatory requirements in statute, prison and jail facilities and criminal penalties in statute.

“I really think you need a comprehensive approach to criminal justice reform, and I’ve never seen it done well in the committee process,” Brandes said earlier this month. “What we really need is a task force to vet these things, and give the (criminal justice) committee a vetted set of bills.”

In recent years, the governors of Georgia, Kentucky and Oklahoma have all made reforms to their criminal justice system, all after receiving recommendations from task forces that they created.

After being elected governor of Kentucky in 2015, Republican Matt Bevin announced the formation of a 23-member Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council. It was comprised prosecutors and public defenders, members of the faith-based and business communities, state lawmakers and local leaders from across the political spectrum.

In Georgia, Republican Governor Nathan Deal did the same after coming into office in 2011. A task force created that year led the Georgia General Assembly to use those recommendations to enact two rounds of reforms in 2012 and 2013 that, deal wrote last fall ,have made “Georgia’s criminal justice system smarter, fairer, more effective and less costly, while in no way sacrificing public safety.”

The proposed legislation calls for the task force to present its report to the governor and the Legislature by the first date of the 2018 regular session.

(Jeff Brandes is a client of Extensive Enterprises, LLC, the holding company of Extensive Enterprises Media, LLC, which publishes this website).

Jeff Brandes files bill to standardize visitation plans

Sen. Jeff Brandes has filed a bill aimed at providing standardized visitation plans for unmarried parents.

The St. Petersburg Republican filed legislation (SB 590) Monday, which would create a standard visitation schedule for unmarried parents. If adopted, the proposal would encourage contact between non-custodial parents and their children.

“Spending time with our children is the most valuable gift parents can give,” he said in a statement. “The state currently requires child support be paid but is silent on time. This bill seeks to offer parents an optional time sharing plan, used in many other states, that puts the focus on parents spending time with their children.”

The time plan, according to Brandes’ office, would be provided as an option when parents meet with the Department of Revenue to set up child support. It would allow the parents to bypass the court system.

Under the proposed plan, children would be with the non-custodial parents every other weekend; one evening per week; Thanksgiving break and spring break in even numbered years; winter break in odd years; and for two weeks during the summer.

Parents could accept the plan as laid out, deviate and agree upon a different plan, or go through further mediation. It provides several exceptions, including when a family member lives more than 100 miles away or when there are concerns of familial or domestic violence.


Jeff Brandes bill would legalize delivery drones

A bill filed Tuesday would allow delivery drones to operate in Florida.

The legislation (SB 460), however, focuses on ground drones, or “personal delivery devices.”

Such a unit is defined as a “motorized device for use primarily on sidewalks and crosswalks at a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour, which weighs 50 pounds or less excluding cargo.”

Ground drones
Photo credit: Starship Technologies

London-based Starship Technologies makes a six-wheeled model that is beginning to make deliveries in California and Washington, D.C.

“With this legislation, Florida continues to lead in transportation policy,” said state Sen. Jeff Brandes, the St. Petersburg Republican who filed it.

He long has embraced “disruptive technologies,” such as ridebooking apps, for example.

“This technology could revolutionize home delivery and will usher in new business models,” Brandes said. “This type of innovative technology should be embraced by policymakers, and I am excited to focus Florida on the future.”

His bill also requires drone operators to carry insurance coverage, among other things, and prohibits drones on the state’s shared-use nonmotorized trail network, or SUNtrails.

Some of Brandes’ fellow lawmakers have not always been as receptive to drones.

In 2013, the Legislature limited Florida law enforcement’s use of flying drones, or remotely-controlled aircraft, in the “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act.”

That measure was backed by Joe Negron, the Stuart Republican who is now the Senate President.

Bill to expand juvenile civil citations raises questions on officer discretion

A bill to set up a civil citation program for juveniles statewide advanced Monday through a Florida Senate committee.

However, questions about removing officer discretion may need to be addressed before the proposal gets widespread support from lawmakers later this Session.

Miami Republican Senator Anitere Flores’ bill (SB 196) would mandate law enforcement officers to offer a civil citation for youths admitting to one of 11 separate misdemeanors: possession of alcohol beverages; battery; criminal mischief; trespassing; theft; retail and farm theft; riots; disorderly conduct; possession of cannabis or controlled substances; possession, manufacture, delivery, transportation, advertisement or retail sale of drug paraphernalia and resisting an officer without violence.

Flores introduce the bill to the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice Monday.

“The reason why I find this bill to be very important is that it brings uniformity to the Civil Citation Program,” Flores said, “so that ability to get a second chance doesn’t depend on where you live or what the color of your skin is, and that it just be something that in the state of Florida we prioritize for all members of our state.”

Although civil citations are already an option for all law enforcement agencies to write up, there is a huge discrepancy in the percentages of actual use among various police and sheriff departments.

For example, in the most recent fiscal year, Pinellas County used civil citations 94 percent of the time they were available. However, across the bay, Sheriff David Gee’s agency in Hillsborough used them only 34 percent of the time.

Currently, Florida law states that law enforcement officers may issue a civil citation. Flores bill would make civil citations a requirement for law enforcement in particular cases.

Although each person in the seven-member committee indicated general support for the bill, some resistance came from St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes, who said that while 94 percent of Pinellas County Sheriff Deputies did write up civil citations, 6 percent believed placing the juvenile under arrest was the best thing to do.

“Why shouldn’t they be allowed to exercise their discretion?” he asked.

Barney Bishop, with the Florida Smart Justice Alliance, said he had been advocating such a bill since his time with Associated Industries of Florida. Nevertheless, Bishop said he had several issues with the bill as currently written.

Like Brandes, Bishop said law enforcement should not be mandated to issue civil citations; he instead suggested incentivizing police chiefs and sheriffs to create department policies to encourage the maximum use of civil citations.

Bishop also disputed the staff summary of the bill saying it will have no fiscal impact. Small counties like Taylor or Washington — ones which currently do not have any civil citation programs in place — must spend money to create such a program, he said.

Bishop then suggested small counties could work together, or with a nonprofit agency, to come up with their own program.

While Flores’ bill would only mandate a civil citation for first-time offenses, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said, currently, there is no statewide database system to allow his deputies to know if a youth found guilty of one of the offenses listed in the legislation hadn’t already received such a citation in a different county.

And though Flores emphasized that the misdemeanors requiring the offer of a civil citation were all nonviolent, Fernandina Beach Republican Aaron Bean questioned the inclusion of battery on the list.

“Battery stands out. That one might be an issue,” Flores admitted, adding that part of the problem is how expansive its definition is, including unwanted touching.

“I’m open to suggestions on how we walk that line,” she said.

The bill passed out of committee by a 5-2 vote. Brandes and Orange Park Republican Rob Bradley opposed it.

After the vote, Senate President Joe Negron issued a statement: “Instead of helping our youth to learn positively from their mistakes like we once did, they may be put in the juvenile justice system, which then creates a criminal record that could potentially follow them for their rest of their lives.”

Proposed legislation could break the cycle of debt for many caught in Florida’s legal system

It’s a vicious circle: Poor people who can’t afford their court-related costs and penalties incur escalating costs for not paying, further indebting them to the state.

“It’s a circle that some people get stuck in and they can’t get out,” Christopher Torres, a Tallahassee defense attorney and former Florida assistant attorney general, told

Compounding the problem is the state’s practice of suspending drivers’ licenses as both a punishment for delinquent payments and an incentive to get people to pay up. For those who can’t afford their financial obligations, the suspensions only add more obstacles to meeting debts and ultimately moving on.

A new reform bill aims to break the cycle.

Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg is proposing legislation to modify legal-debt payment terms and prohibit drivers’ license suspensions statewide for individuals demonstrating an inability to pay court obligations and other legal penalties.

The St. Petersburg Republican is teaming up with state Sen. Darryl Rouson, a Tampa Bay-area Democrat, to push the reform measure. An identical bill, also sponsored by Brandes, died in an appropriations committee last year despite unanimous support from fellow legislators at two separate committees stops.

Brandes sits on the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and helped pass a landmark civil asset forfeiture bill in 2016. A second attempt at reforming legal system costs and burdens indicates renewed confidence that the reforms could pass this year.

Local clerks of court are required to accept monthly debt payments equal to one-twelfth of 2 percent of a person’s annual net income. It’s a flexible standard meant to accommodate various income backgrounds.

But payments are often arranged inflexibly and at higher rates.

“In Florida, this presumption is often ignored and payment levels are set at fixed amounts,” states a Brennan Center for Justice report on criminal justice debt.

Brandes’ bill would cap annual payments made to local clerks of court at no more than 2 percent of annual net income, unless an applicant agrees to pay more.

In Florida, clerks of court also turn over unpaid accounts after 90 days to private attorneys or debt collection services. State law allows them to tack on 40 percent surcharges to underlying debts.

The proposed legislation wouldn’t abolish the surcharges, but it would limit the amount of time private collectors could pursue legal system debts to no more than 5 years. It would also deny any additional charges beyond what clerks of court contractually negotiate through an open bidding process.

Suspension problems

With respect to drivers’ licenses, prohibiting suspensions for low-income people would help tackle the inherent inefficiency of obstructing good-faith efforts to drive to work and earn an income.

“Most people in Florida are dependent on driving,” Torres said. “If you can’t drive then it’s harder to work or find employment. … Getting caught driving illegally means new problems added to old problems, maybe even an arrest, and the cycle starts over again.”

According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 1.5 million notices of suspension were issued in 2014, mostly originating from “failure to comply” or “failure to pay” offenses.

The Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, a legislative research office, reports that a large percentage of license suspensions relating to delinquent court costs take more than two years to reinstate.

Reinstatement requires full payment of all financial obligations, enrolling in a payment plan (if not already enrolled), or a court order granting relief.

The amount of time and money involved for many suspension reinstatements leaves the door open for illegal driving. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators estimates that as many as three-fourths of drivers with suspended or revoked licenses continue to drive.

Torres said the penalties for driving with a suspended license hinge on intent. If a law enforcement officer determines that an individual was driving “without knowledge” that their license was suspended, then the penalty is a civil offense punishable by a traffic ticket.

If an officer determines that a driver was “knowingly” driving with a suspended license, then the offense is criminal and warrants arrest.

Under current law, hardship exemptions for business or employment purposes do not apply for failing to pay court obligations and legal penalties, even though they’re available for many driving-related suspensions, such as driving under the influence.

Prohibiting license suspensions for indigents, disabled persons, bankrupt individuals and government assistance recipients could enhance efforts to pay off legal obligations and reduce the cycle of escalating burdens and taxpayer resources required to sustain the merry-go-round process.

The question may be whether the state and local governments are willing to lose the revenue streams.

Revenue vs. debtors

According to a legislative staff analysis, if Brandes’ 2016 bill would’ve passed it would’ve caused significant government revenue losses.

“The bill would likely have a negative impact on local tax collectors and clerks of court who retain a portion of revenues from certain drivers’ license sanctions when issuing reinstatements, in addition to other fees retained by them associated with drivers’ license suspensions and revocations.”

The Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers, a statewide association, estimated clerks of court would suffer annual losses ranging from $24.7 million to $82.4 million, depending on the success of the reforms.

If 15 percent of collections were lost because of the new payment plan modifications, licensing reforms, or the bill’s promotion of community service as a way to pay work off debts at minimum wage, then clerks of court could lose an estimated $24.7 million in revenue.

If participation jumped to 50 percent, then $82.4 million in estimated losses could result.

Add on another $7.5 million in annual recurring funds for new full-time employees and IT support for payment plan maintenance, and legislators might balk at the reforms again.

But the issue isn’t going away. Criminal justice reformers are confronting financially burdensome, and sometimes insurmountable, legal system practices across the country.

Marc Levin, director of the Center for Effective Justice at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, says the cycle of escalating court obligations and legal penalties is too expensive in both human and taxpayer costs.

“While there is a legitimate role for fines and fees, their use has skyrocketed over the last few decades, with the penalties appearing to be more tied to generating revenue for government rather than legitimate public safety purposes,” he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union asserts that “state and local courts have increasingly attempted to supplement their funding by charging fees to people convicted of crimes, including fees for public defenders, prosecutors, court administration, jail operation, and probation supervision.”

The debate between revenue and reform will be heard at the state Capitol when the annual legislative session convenes on March 7.

Last year, the Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers association reported $894 million in total collections for court costs, monetary penalties, fees, service charges and other costs. The collection rate was 73 percent.

Lawmakers look to raise money during upcoming legislative committee meeting weeks

It’s going to be a busy few weeks for Florida Republicans.

House Majority announced fundraising events for seven House Republicans, all of which are running for re-election in 2018, between Jan. 24 and Feb. 20.

The fundraising kicks off on Tuesday with an event for Rep. Bob Cortes. The event is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. at The Beer Industry of Florida, 110 South Monroe Street, Suite B.

House Majority will also hold a fundraiser for Reps. Heather Fitzenhagen, MaryLynn Magar, Kathleen Peters, and Holly Raschein on Feb. 15. That event is scheduled to take place in the Library Room at the Governors Club, 202 S. Adams Street.

Five days later on Feb. 20, the House Majority is hosting a fundraiser for Rep. Paul Renner and Rep. Cyndi Stevenson in the Library Room of the Governor’s Club.

All of the events are slated to happen in Tallahassee, and are hosted by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Rep. Jose Oliva, and Rep. Chris Sprowls.

House Republicans aren’t the only ones raising dough in February.

Sen. Jeff Brandes is hosting a fundraising reception in the Trapiche Room at the JW Marriott Miami, 1109 Brickell Ave. in Miami. The 9 p.m. “dessert and cordials” reception will benefit Liberty Florida, and will feature a visit from special guest CFO Jeff Atwater.

Legislation covering Uber, Lyft filed for 2017

Online car services such as Uber and Lyft got a preliminary win in Florida after favorable legislation was filed Wednesday in the Legislature.

The bills (SB 340 and HB 221), which would apply to ridebooking companies like Uber and Lyft, combine parts of previous measures that have been introduced but not passed over the last few years.

Still, “transportation network companies,” or TNCs, pretty much got what they wanted, including a provision for driver background checks that don’t require fingerprints, which are more expensive for the companies.

Senate sponsor Jeff Brandes, however, says the checks provided for in the bills are still rigorous and comprehensive. He and state Rep. Chris Sprowls, a Pinellas County Republican who filed the House bill, spoke with reporters Wednesday.

Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who advocates for ridebooking and other “disruptive technologies,” mentioned running potential drivers through a national sex offender database and searching their driving history records.

Importantly, the bills also prohibit local governments from trying to regulate TNCs, another bugaboo of the companies.

Lyft spokeswoman Chelsea Harrison called the bills “fair and comprehensive.”

The legislation “establishes common-sense guidelines throughout the state, and allows people in Florida to continue benefitting from Lyft’s affordable, reliable rides,” said Harrison, Lyft’s senior policy communications manager.

“More than two-thirds of states across the country have embraced modern transportation options like Lyft and we are hopeful Florida will soon join them in creating a framework that benefits drivers and passengers,” she added.

Such legislation has been opposed by taxicab and limo interests, and the head of the Florida Taxicab Association called this year’s bills “another attempt by Uber to have legislation written to codify their exact business practice.”

“The goal for policymakers should be what is in the best interest of the public, including drivers, passengers and third parties,” said Roger Chapin, also the executive vice president of Mears Transportation, Central Florida’s largest taxi and hired-car provider.

“A good start,” he added, “would be an appropriate level of insurance for any and all ‘for hire’ drivers that covers the additional risk associated with the more intensive use of the vehicle,” such as “24/7 commercial insurance.”

But the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America came out in support of the bills.

“Many drivers believe their personal auto insurance policy will cover them; this is almost never the case, as the majority of personal auto insurance policies exclude coverage when a vehicle is being used for hire,” association spokeswoman Logan McFaddin said.

“This legislative solution helps to ensure there are safe transportation options that protect drivers, passengers and the public.”

Among other things, the bills require the companies to insure drivers for at least $1 million when they’re giving a ride.

While drivers are on duty but waiting for a ride, they must insure them for death and bodily injury of $50,000 per person, $100,000 for death and bodily injury per incident, and $25,000 for property damage.

Chris Hudson, state director of Americans for Prosperity-Florida, a free market advocacy group, also came out in favor of the bills. He said TNCs “offer economic benefits to the economy by stirring market activity through new good paying jobs consistent with the American Dream.”

Lawmakers “need to strip away the red tape that is crushing innovation and opportunity for Floridians to thrive,” he added. “We will hold elected officials accountable that stand against common sense reforms to expand available services to entrepreneurs and consumers.”

Colin Tooze, an Uber representative, called the legislation “sound and consistent with the emerging national consensus” on regulating ridebooking.

“The bills have very robust safety, insurance, and consumer protection standards,” said Tooze, Uber’s public affairs director. “That’s what our drivers and riders are looking for.”

He also said the pre-emption language, reserving TNC regulation to the state, also was important to save drivers and riders from a “patchwork of regulations that’s very confusing.”

“We think people ought to have certainty and uniformity so that wherever in Florida you are, you can count on a good experience,” Tooze said.

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