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Hillsborough PTC antes up, adds high-powered lobbyists for Uber battle

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Hillsborough County’s Public Transportation Commission is stepping up the legislative battle in Tallahassee against ridesharing technology firm Uber.

On Monday, HCPTC head Kyle Cockream confirmed the retention of the high-powered and politically connected firm Capital City Consulting. CCC’s efforts are in addition the PTC’s main representatives, Corcoran & Johnston.

The decision to expand the county lobbying team comes from a recently proposed bill that contains language that would negatively “impact the composition” of the PTC, according to Cockream.

As an independent special district, a Special Act of the Florida Legislature established the structure of the board.

According to Cockream, the proposed language “circumvents the local bill and legislative processes in an attempt to modify” the commission membership.

“Seven elected officials, of whom comprise the HCPTC Board, have been consistent in seeking consumer protections for public safety, from all who wish to provide public transportation services,” said Cockream.

“There are a dozen or more highly paid professional lobbyists representing rideshare companies who disagree with the HCPTC board’s commitment to consumer protection and public safety and who are pushing for this legislation,” he added.

The PTC represents three cities — Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City – as well as Hillsborough County, intended to be a one-stop permitting process with the goal of ensuring public safety.

Any modifications to its board or governance need to be done by the local bill through a special act.  Any attempt to do otherwise strips away local government’s right of access to the process.”

Uber and the PTC had been at odds since April 2014, when the ridesharing firm began operating in Tampa. Since then, the PTC has been seeking out, citing and ticketing Uber drivers.

On several occasions, Cockream publicly accused the technology company of being an “illegal taxi service,” and should be regulated like established cab companies.

Uber, facing opposition in several Florida cities such as Tampa and Miami, has turned to Tallahassee to legalize the company’s business through legislation, provoking groups like the PTC to up its lobbyist game.

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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