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Uber ad blames Andy Gardiner for failure of ride-sharing legislation in Senate

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Uber is publicly blaming Senate President Andy Gardiner for the collapse of a deal that would create a legal framework for the ride-hailing technology company to operate in Florida.

LobbyTools reports that the San Francisco-based company is holding the Senate president personally responsible for blocking the bill.

“Senator Gardiner’s actions raise a very important question,” Uber spokesman Colin Tooze told reporters. “Is Senator Gardiner going to listen to the voices of the people of Florida, or is he beholden to one special interest taxi company?”

The “special-interest taxi company” Tooze alludes to is Orlando-based Mears Transportation. Gardiner is a longtime friend of CEO Paul Mears III.

Uber had intended to run an ad blasting Gardiner in the Tallahassee market during the Republican presidential primary debate but held off as the bill progressed.

Since the proposal now seems to be dead on arrival, LobbyTools says the company will now reconsider running the 30-second ad called “Floridians Want Uber.”

Altamonte Springs Republican Sen. David Simmons, sponsor of SB 1118 — the Senate version of the bill — also criticized Uber, saying the ride-sharing company shouldn’t dictate to the Legislature.

“The negotiations … are not breaking down in any way,” Simmons said Tuesday. “Remarks that are made by Uber about President Gardiner are grossly unfair and inaccurate. I was surprised by this.”

Gardiner brushed off accusations that he should receive blame for delaying the bill.

“During the 2016 Legislative Session, no Senator filed a companion to the House Bill requiring state pre-emption,” Gardiner representative Katie Betta told LobbyTools in an email. “The bill filed in the Senate is related to liability and insurance and is on the Senate calendar and available for a vote on the Senate floor.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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