FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — A contentious debate that began at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday went well into the night as Broward County commissioners discussed three proposals that could pave the way for the return of popular ride service Uber.
Since going on their summer break, a majority of the commission on Tuesday appeared willing to work on some sort of compromise with the smart-phone app service, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
Several commissioners have said they’ll change their votes to strip a new Uber law of requirements the company objected to: fingerprint-based criminal background checks conducted by the county, a commercial insurance requirement, and individual driver registration with the county.
“The response from the voters, not only want Uber but they don’t want us to be as strict with our ordiance,” said Broward County Commissioner Mark Bogen.
In the end, commissioners voted 6-2 on to have an Uber-friendly law drafted for a September vote.
Commissioners will hold a public hearing in September to finalize the changes.
The ride service pulled out of Broward at the end of July after the commission passed a resolution which would have required them to have their drivers fingerprinted and undergo a background check by the county. Each driver would also have to acquire a county chauffeur registration. The company would also have to have commercial insurance on their drivers.
“Uber was the one that set the date to leave. We didn’t set that date. The county’s been asking Uber to show up to meetings and they have refused to show up,” said Broward County Commissioner Barbar Sharief.
“We’ve bent over backwards to accommodate them,” argued Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness.
On the table for discussion on Tuesday were three Uber friendly proposals.
One, by Commissioner Bogen, eliminates the fingerprinting requirement and would allow a third party to conduct background checks. It would also get rid of the requirement that each driver would have to have a county chauffeur registration and would allow the company to have one umbrella police that covers all drivers, but without listing each vehicle.
Commissioner Chip LaMarca has proposed passing a law similar to what the city of Tallahassee approved, which Uber said was a good model. It allows Uber and other ride service companies to self-regulate driver background checks and registrations. LaMarca said he met with an Uber representative who assured him that if Broward passed a law like Tallahassee’s and dropped plans to seek an injunction, Uber would return immediately, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
Finally, there’s the Broward County Accountable Taxi program proposed by Commissioner Stacy Ritter. The proposal calls for the county fill any gap in commercial insurance for drivers by obtaining a policy and recouping the cost from customers. Also Uber would have to pay fees for its previous operations at Port Everglades and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport where all other drivers-for-hire are charged by the county for each fare. Background checks would be conducted by a third-party.
Ritter’s proposal calls for customer rating system of traditional taxis, and their drivers, and would allow the county to take action against those rated poorly.
Uber urged its supporters to appear at Tuesday’s meeting to speak in favor of a softening of county laws.
Dozens signed up for public comment including taxi drivers who are concerned about Uber coming back to Broward saying Uber gets special treatment and hurt their business.
“We have to charge what the commission tells us and charge no more, no less but a company like Uber has been allowed to come in here and when business is slow, they undercut our prices and when business is good, they’ve charged multiple of our pricing,” said Yellow Cab President John Camillo.
On Twitter, commenters have lambasted cabs and begged for a return of Uber, under the hashtag #BrowardNeedsUber. The traditional cab and limo industry has appealed to commissioners to stand firm.