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House Uber bill TP’d, resolution with Senate still uncertain

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As is the case with so many other issues – not least of which is the $4 million budget chasm stemming from inter-cameral differences on hospital funding for indigent services – the House and Senate still seem to be quite a ways off from passing anything resembling a unified ride sharing bill to govern firms like Uber and Lyft.

Swiftly and without any commotion, House leaders and bill sponsor Rep. Matt Gaetz of Shalimar came to an agreement by which his HB 817 was temporarily postponed on the floor.

The measure is likely to come up again during final stretch legislative action – at least for the regular Session – next week.

One major hangup between House and Senate turns on the issue of insurance. Sen. David Simmons‘ SB 1298 passed the full Senate yesterday.

That bill would require all vehicles operated by ride sharing drivers to be covered by an in-state insurer under the umbrella of a statewide insurance guarantor.

It would appear dead on arrival in the House, where the companion bearing language similar to Simmons’ bill was never even given a hearing in its first committee of reference.

Gaetz bill, on the other hand, is far more thoroughgoing. Besides conspicuously not carrying the Senate’s stricter insurance requirements, the House Speaker Steve Crisafulli-backed plan would preempt local ordinances designed to stymy Uber.

As of yesterday, to Gaetz’s chagrin, his bill also now contains a strict level 2 background check thanks to an unfriendly amendment filed by Rep. Kathleen Peters and supported by a Democrats and Republicans with former experience or sympathies with local governments.

Jockeying and maneuvering will continue through the weekend and into next week as the taxi cab and limousine companies – notably Mears Transportation, an Orlando company with evidently substantial influence over Senate President Andy Gardiner and his Altamonte Springs Rules Chair David Simmons – will continue to rifle through the hay stack of grid lock for a needle of compromise.

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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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