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Ridesharing bill advances to final vote in Senate

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Legislation creating a statewide regulatory framework for ridesharing companies was debated Tuesday on the Senate floor.

Sponsored by St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes, SB 340 would require ride-sharing companies to carry $100,000 of insurance for bodily injury or death and $25,000 for property damage while a driver is logged onto their app but hasn’t secured a passenger. While with a rider, drivers would be required to have $1 million in coverage.

It also requires transportation network companies to have third parties conduct local and national criminal background checks on drivers.

Brandes substituted the House version of the bill (HB 221) sponsored by Republicans Jamie Grant of Tampa and Chris Sprowls of Safety Harbor, which had already passed the lower chamber.

Brandon Republican Tom Lee and Miami Democrat Julio Rodriguez introduced amendments, but then withdrawn.

Lee’s amendment would address what he said was an oversight in the legislation involving local governments cutting a deal with a particular transportation network company while cutting out others.

“What I fear what’s going to happen is that the extractions that are going to occur for that exclusivity are going to cost those transportation network companies a lot of money,” said Lee. “And then they’re going to have to drive their costs back through the rates paid by consumers, and yet those consumers wouldn’t have any choice.”

Lee didn’t want to jam up the legislation, he said. However, he would try to add his proposal to a different bill.

The next amendment, offered by Rodriguez, would address what he said was unnecessary language on standards in the bill if a ride-sharing driver is an employee or independent contractor.

Brandes considered it an unfriendly amendment; Rodriguez quickly withdrew it.

The bill now advances to the Senate for a third and final hearing Wednesday. Passage there would bring the bill to Gov. Rick Scott‘s desk to become state law.

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

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