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Andy Gardiner casting long shadow over Uber debate

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Speaker Steve Crisafulli called adoption of ridesharing legislation to recognize and regulate so-called transportation network companies like Uber “inevitable” in a pre-session talk with media.

Yet for the second year in a row, a full-court press by key Republican legislators aimed at smoothing the way for ridesharing came up short.

The reason why, according to sources familiar with ongoing budget talks: Crisafulli’s counterpart Senate President Andy Gardiner.

Earlier this week state Sen. Joe Negron inserted a last-minute budget item into the budget  that would have placed a moratorium on local governments enacting ordinances hostile to ridesharing firms until next legislative session.
The line item — anchored to $10,000 for a study on whether ridesharing reduces rates of drunk driving — miffed Gardiner so much that he reportedly called senators and threatened member projects and other line items that would later “bump” up to appropriations chairs if the House accepted the offer containing that language, throwing what amounted to a “tantrum,” sources told Florida Politics.

Gardiner’s ties to Roger Chapin — the Senate president’s childhood friend and executive with Orlando taxi and limousine giant Mears Transportation are well-known on Adams Street — but it’s hard to overstate how singular an influence in this year’s approach to ridesharing it has been.

Coverage of last week’s budget proviso fiasco focused on state Sen. Arthenia Joyner and institutional Hillsborough’s one-sided views on ridesharing. The Tampa Democrat’s home county has the only legislatively designated Public Transit Commission, which has spent six figures in lobbying efforts that brought down pro-Uber legislation last year.

But according to ridesharing sources, most stories have buried the lede: a powerful senator and potential rising president in Negron showed his cards and plainly indicated that the Legislature’s intransigence on the issue stems almost solely from Gardiner.

Inevitable? Perhaps not. Few saw Corcoran and Crisafulli’s “Sine Die surprise” coming and the Legislature now, as always, is all too human.

But in the term-limits era, the oddsmaking arithmetic isn’t very complicated: with new presiding officers, legislation to bolster Uber across the state is as close to a sure thing as it gets.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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