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Uber bill cruises through Senate panel, will see amendment in Appropriations

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A ridesharing insurance requirements bill that goes hand in hand with a broader effort to pass legislation permitting Uber across Florida made progress today, passing quickly and unanimously through the Senate Judiciary Committee early Tuesday evening.

The proposal — SB 1298 — sponsored by Altamonte Springs state Sen. David Simmons requires that app-based “transportation network companies” like Uber and Lyft carry specialized insurance policies, the same way cab companies carry commercial and liability insurnce.

Simmons’ bill provides for specific guidelines — including $1 million for liability and uninsured motorist coverage — and would settle existing ambiguities raised by many of the companies’ critics.

“Do you think it would be safe to say that if your bill passes with its current standards that rideshare companies have better insurance than the cab companies by the state standard?” was how state Sen. Jeff Brandes, an ardent supporter of the ridesharing cause, framed the issue.

“In some instances, that is correct,” replied Simmons, though he then pivoted and emphasized that amendatory language was coming soon.

“The stakeholders have reached a consensus and they have provided me with an amendment that they would like to be used,” said Simmons, presumably referring to representatives from TNCs and taxi cab companies. “I certainly intend on incorporating a significant portion of what they have produced into an amendment that would be presented at the next stop.”

While Simmons’ bill moves on to its final committee stop before facing the full Senate, Brandes’ broader bill has not been taken up in committee. State Rep. Matt Gaetz’s House companion awaits a vote by the House, having completed the committee process while accruing 7 “No” votes along the way.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli has called comprehensive pro-Uber legislative “inevitable.” Recent action in the Tallahassee City Commission and across the region seem to suggest he is right.

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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