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Hillsborough PTC unveils its bill to regulate Uber and Lyft in Florida

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

That local bill to regulate Transportation Network Companies (TNC) such as Uber and Lyft that the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission has proposed has been drafted and was placed on the PTC’s website on Wednesday. The bill, to be sponsored by Plant City House Republican Dan Raulerson, will be introduced before the local Hillsborough County local delegation meeting on September 25.

“It is truly balanced and fair,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner and PTC Chairman Victor Crist at today’s Board of County Commissioners meeting. “It is not partial to any company or any industry. Who it’s partial to is the riding public.”

After last week’s PTC meeting, Crist said he wanted to invite Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jeff Brandes for a beer to hash over their differences on the legislation (Brandes has been on the record for calling for the elimination of the PTC). Crist said the two met at Shula’s steakhouse in Tampa on Monday night for a “beer and whiskey summit,” where one had to drink when they disagreed on an issue. “We left that meeting very agreeable,” he said laughing.

As promised, the legislation tries to pin the TNCs down on issues like background checks, insurance and vehicle inspections. Here are some highlights:

Background Checks: This bill requires Level II background checks for drivers. Level II background checks are conducted through the use of fingerprints, which provides the most secure form of identification, and are not as easily defrauded. Level II background screening is the most comprehensive, covers both nationwide and international criminal history records checks, and is required by other regulated industries. Additionally, it provides an ongoing reporting mechanism for future criminal activity. These background checks also include a driving history.

Insurance: To ensure that riders, pedestrians and property are adequately protected in the event of an accident, this bill also requires TNC drivers or the TNC, on the driver’s behalf, to maintain the following specified insurance coverage:

  • Primary automobile insurance coverage of at least $125,000 for death and bodily injury per person; $250,000 for death and bodily injury per incident; coverage for uninsured and underinsured motorists; and $25,000 for property damage liability coverage; when the driver is logged on to the TNC’s digital network, but not engaged in a prearranged ride.
  • Primary automobile liability insurance of at least $1 million for death and bodily injury; and $50,000 for property damage liability coverage; when the driver is engaged in a prearranged ride.
  • Primary automobile liability insurance of at least $100,000 for death and bodily injury per person; $200,000 for death and bodily injury per incident; and, $25,000 for property damage liability coverage; for all other times not specified above.
  • These TNC insurance requirements must be satisfied by an admitted carrier in the State of Florida and which is a member of the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association

Vehicle Inspections: In Florida, vehicles are no longer required to be inspected. The traveling public has an expectation that vehicles used to transport persons meet a baseline of safety in their operation. Brakes, lights and exhaust systems should operate safely and function properly. In order to ensure this level of safety, the bill requires mechanical inspection of TNC vehicles by a certified mechanic, prior to transporting riders, and a maximum age limit of 10 model years.

Americans with Disabilities Act/Accessibility: To ensure that such services are accessible to all persons, this bill requires all TNCs to provide access to persons with disabilities. This may easily be accomplished through the use of contracts with licensed and insured third parties.

“I’m expecting everyone to have an issue with it, because it doesn’t give either side 100 percent of what they want,” said Crist. “What it does give is a level playing field for all.”

The Florida Legislature was working on a similar bill to regulate TNCs this past session, but it died when the session was called off due to the House leaving Tallahassee three days before its scheduled date, due to an impasse over the state budget between the Senate and House. “We’re not showing them anything different than they’ve already debated and reviewed,” said Crist.

(Updated)When contacted about the bill, an Uber spokesman blasted it.

“From the harassment of local driver-partners to litigation, this is just the latest attempt by the PTC to effectively shut down ridesharing as we know it in the Tampa Bay area,” said spokesman Bill Gibbons. “We have proposed to the PTC a sensible regulatory framework for local rule making in line with the ridesharing laws passed in more than 20 states and dozens of other jurisdictions across the U.S. We have not received any official response or acknowledgement of receipt from the PTC.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at [email protected]

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