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Tom Lee quietly files unfriendly amendment affecting Uber, Lyft

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State Sen. Tom Lee on Wednesday filed an amendment for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles bill that would regulate the operations of ridebooking services like Uber and Lyft.

The language would prohibit local governments and governmental bodies, including airport authorities, from cutting deal with “transportation network companies” (TNCs) to operate exclusively in their jurisdictions.

The amendment for the bill (HB 545) also prohibits agreements “that provides disparate treatment” to any TNC.

The prohibitions wouldn’t “apply to contracts existing on July 1, 2017,” nor if any deals resulted from “a competitive solicitation process.”

Requests for comment were sent to Lee, who was in a Senate floor session Thursday morning, and to spokespeople for Lyft and Uber.

Also this session, Lee called for an independent audit of the Tampa International Airport‘s expansion project, saying there are too many unanswered questions about how the airport is being run. Airport officials said they’d welcome any audit.

Updated 11 a.m. — The Senate temporarily postponed the bill after Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala warned against overpacking the transportation bill.

Lee had first said he wanted to “ensure the free market we were trying to set up under the original bill.” That refers to the TNC regulatory bill passed this session.

That bill’s sponsor, St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes, then said he was “deeply conflicted” over the language because it didn’t address taxi companies.

Finally, Latvala warned: “Just keep loading it up and there will be no highway safety or transportation bill this year. I’ve seen it, over and over and over again,” he said.

“The merits of Sen. Lee’s amendment — we could probably talk the rest of the day about it,” Latvala added.

“One thing I do believe is that …  taxi companies and transportation networks ought to be treated equally. If this amendment doesn’t provide that, then we shouldn’t adopt it.”

Uber spokesman Javi Correoso said the company “thanks Senator Lee for his support in creating a permanent home for Uber in Florida.”

But, he added, the amendment “can limit access to airports and seaports by requiring a burdensome bidding process that taxi companies and other vehicle for hires would not be subject to.

“In addition, the amendment would eliminate the practice of innovative pilot programs where the ridesharing industry has worked with public entities to create transportation options for hard working, lower income residents traveling back after late night work shifts.”

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