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New amendment to Uber insurance bill could contain poison pill for ridesharing

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Altamonte Springs state Sen. David Simmons has filed a new amendment to his SB 1298 — a bill originally considered to be part and parcel of Senate plans to smooth the way forward for both ‘transportation network companies’ like Uber and short-term rental companies like Airbnb –– that might spell the end of the line for ridesharing progress this session.

The amendment, filed Wednesday, would ratchet up insurance requirements for vehicles operated by Uber and other app-based ridesharing firms to an extent considered excessive by the industry.

Instead of liability insurance that covers bodily injury and property damange — which Uber currently does cover for up to $1 million, a level mirrored in the bill in both its original form — the revised language would require Uber operators to carry 24/7 commercial liability insurance.

Those are the same requirements applied to taxi cabs, which ridesharing advocates argue are a completely different endeavor from an independent Uber or Lyft driver’s operation.

The amendment glosses over a distinction ridesharing observers agree is crucial: when an Uber driver’s app is active for purposes of picking up or dropping off a rider, and when that driver is not engaged in commercial activity, on their own personal time.

The bill passed in Appropriations with a committee substitute 14-2 before the amendment was filed, but there’s little chance it would pass in its amended form.

The House companion bill HB 757 sponsored by state Rep. Bill Hager is stalled in the committee process. House Insurance & Banking, its first committee of reference, did not hear it and may not meet again this session.

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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