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Uber-friendly legislation tops Hillsborough politicians’ wish list

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation will consider five proposed “local bills” that touch on the operations of “transportation network companies,” such as Uber and Lyft, according to an email sent to members on Tuesday.

The 14-member delegation of state representatives and senators from both parties will go over the proposed legislation at its meeting next Friday, Senate legislative aide Chris Spencer said.

Local bills, as opposed to general bills, apply “to an area or group that is less than the total area or population of the state,” according to the Online Sunshine website.

Uber and Lyft have been variously operating legally, illegally or in a legal gray area in different parts of the state, though Tampa has been the prime battleground between them and the taxi industry and local regulators.

Those needing a ride pull up a mobile-phone application to find available drivers near them. That same app calls for the driver and handles payment.

And unlike cabs, Uber drivers often show up in minutes. Uber has said it’s logged 5 million rides in Florida and claims 18,000 drivers here.

The San Francisco-based company in particular has taken the fight to statehouses, seeking favorable legislation that would exempt it from being treated like a cab company.

Some of the local bills specifically target the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, or PTC, which regulates hired-car service. 

The commission has said

But one proposed bill would “remove PTC authority over TNCs and limos,” the email said.

Another would remove the commission’s power to issue citations for local ordinance violations.

Still another would get rid of the commission altogether.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, and state Rep. Jamie Grant, a Tampa Republican, have championed Uber and tried to rein in or eliminate the PTC.

They’re hoping 2016 is the year to get bills like these passed. Previous attempts have failed, despite Uber pressing at least 23 registered lobbyists into service last session.

A House bill would have taken away regulatory power over hired vehicles from cities and counties and reserved it to the state. A Senate bill dealt only with insurance, requiring different levels of coverage depending on whether an Uber driver is giving a ride or in the car waiting for one. Both bills died.

The delegation meets at 9 a.m. Friday, Sept. 25, at Hillsborough Community College’s Brandon campus, in the Student Services Building Auditorium, 10414 East Columbus Drive.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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