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Mitch Perry Report for 7.16.15 — Jeb Bush goes to Uber

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Jeb Bush is in San Francisco today, where he plans on hailing an Uber to show his support for the ride-sharing company. His appearance comes a day after California regulators required the company to pay a $7.3 million fine and hand over required information about safety and accessibility — or be shut down in their home state.

The California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates taxis and shuttle companies, asked Uber, Lyft and Sidecar to report the number of customers requesting rides in vehicles that can accommodate people with disabilities. They also have to report how often they complied with those requests. For whatever reason, Uber has opted not to provide that information. They will appeal the decision.

There’s lot of litigation against Uber around the world. The L.A. Times reports that more than a dozen lawsuits have been filed in recent months in counties across the continent, where some analysts say the company is in danger of being shut down or becoming so entangled in legislation as to be neutered.

That’s not to say that the company isn’t enormously popular. Many politicians dig the service — locally, Jeff Brandes, Jamie Grant and Bob Buckhorn have been among its biggest supporters, as the Hillsborough County PTC tries to get Uber (and Lyft) to comply with its regulations, so far unsuccessfully.

Meanwhile, Buckhorn’s choice for president, Hillary Clinton, appeared to call out the ride-sharing giant during her speech on the economy on Monday in New York City.

“Many Americans are making extra money renting out a small room, designing websites, selling products they design themselves at home, or even driving their own car,” Clinton said. “This on-demand, or so-called ‘gig economy,’ is creating exciting opportunities and unleashing innovation. But it’s also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.”

She added that, “Fair pay and fair scheduling, paid family leave and earned sick days, child care are essential to our competitiveness and growth.” Those are benefits that independent contractors at places like Uber don’t get.

Uber has insisted that its drivers aren’t employees, but independent contractors. It’ll be interesting to see how Jeb handles the press when asked about some of these issues while meeting with Uber’s Travis Kalanick.

In other news..

OK, this is getting confusing — and intense. The group Floridians for Solar Choice has been working all year long to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot next year giving citizens the opportunity to purchase solar outside of the major power companies. There’s heavy resistance against them, and yesterday a new group called Consumers for Solar Choice announced its own attempt at a constitutional amendment.

Carlos Lopez-Cantera attempted to shake off the criticism that he hasn’t done much on the job as Florida’s lieutenant governor the past year and a half. His entry into the U.S. Senate campaign elicited jeers from progressive groups and Florida Democrats.

The Hillsborough County Commission continues to veer away from its former reputation as a bastion for conservatism. The board yesterday unanimously approved Commissioner Les Miller’s proposal to remove the Third National Confederate Flag from the premises of the County Center.

The reputation of the Tampa Police Department was soiled on Tuesday night after a two-hour hearing convened by the U.S. Justice Department shined a light on the behavior of the TPD with the black community.

Another day, another poll where Donald Trump is leading over Jeb Bush. 

Persistent red-light camera critic Jeff Brandes wants the FLDE to investigate a red-light camera vendor doing business in Florida (including Clearwater). Recently a former top official with Redflex Traffic Systems was found guilty of bribing Democratic state officials in Ohio.

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 mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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