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Uber requests that ride-sharing be part of special session in Tallahassee

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Among the many casualties in the aborted legislative session last month was legislation regulating ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft.

On the eve of the Special Session, though, Uber’s Florida General Manager Matthew Gore and other Florida business leaders have asked House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner to include transportation network companies in the call that starts Monday.

“When you gather for this important June session, we hope you consider the more than 60,000 Floridians who have asked you to take up this issue, the 20,000 entrepreneurs that rely on this economic opportunity, and the millions of residents and tourists that depend on the safe, reliable and affordable transportation options Uber partners provide throughout the state,” Gore wrote in a letter co-signed by David Hart from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, J.T. Griffin from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Brewster Bevis from Associated Industries of Florida and Bill Herrie with the National Federation of Independent Businesses in Florida.

“Creating a permanent home for ride-sharing in Florida through a sensible, modern regulatory framework will be good for the state’s economy, good for our transportation ecosystem, and good for the people of Florida,” Gore wrote.

Uber listed never said as many as 20,000 residents have become drivers for their service in Florida. The letter states that they have provided more than 8 million rides in the Sunshine State as well.

Lyft, the other major ride-sharing company doing business in Florida, has not submitted a formal request to state lawmakers. But spokeswoman Paige Thelan emailed Florida Politics, “As we explore the idea of a statewide solution for ride-sharing, we have been in touch with Florida leaders to request that Lyft be included the upcoming special session in Tallahassee. The people of Florida have demonstrated their support for ride-sharing and we hope to work with state leaders on a path forward that maintains this consumer option.”

Lawmakers came to the Capitol this spring intending to create regulations for the companies, which have been operating in most of Florida’s major cities in Florida for the past year. They’ve often been at loggerheads with local governments over regulations involving insurance and background checks.

Senate Transportation Committee Chair Jeff Brandes told FloridaPolitics.com he wasn’t aware of Uber’s request to be part of the Special Session, but agrees that it’s appropriate to discuss as lawmakers gather during next month.

“It’s time to have this discussion,” he said. “Unless the state gets their arms around it, you’re going to have a number of different local ordinances, some of which will have conflicting pieces that deal with transportation network companies.”

Legislation sponsored by Altamonte Springs Republican David Simmons in the Senate would require ride-share drivers to carry at least $1 million in death and bodily injury insurance and $50,000 in property damage when giving a ride. It also requires bodily injury coverage of $125,000 per person and $250,000 per incident and $50,000 in property damage when a driver has the app turned on but is not carrying or picking up a passenger. It also adds additional insurance requirements for “rogue” drivers who pick up people without using the app.

Republican Matt Gaetz‘ bill in the House requires $1 million in death, bodily injury and property damage insurance. It has lower minimums of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per incident for bodily injury and $25,000 for property damage when someone has the app on but doesn’t have a passenger. His bill also would pre-empt local transportation laws set in place such as by Hillsborough County’s Public Transportation Commission.

Brandes, one of Uber’s leading boosters in Tallahassee, said the two chambers aren’t far apart:

“Especially on the areas of insurance and background checks, I think there’s a lot of common ground that can be had, and that’s what we’re seeking. My goal is that we’ll do that during the special session or next year.”

Here is the letter in full:

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 mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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