TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – It seems like Uber can’t get out of Florida’s political headlights.
This time it’s about the Senate holding off on giving the green light to a House proposal that would prevent local governments from regulating popular app-based transportation services.
Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said Tuesday his chamber will again focus during the 2016 legislative session on setting insurance requirements for drivers for the rideshare services.
Gardiner expects Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, to file legislation that would seek to impose new insurance requirements, addressing a “gap ” period that involves the time between when a driver is notified about a having a customer to pick up and the actual pickup.
A House subcommittee last week approved a more far-reaching proposal (HB 509) that would preempt city and county regulation of the services.
“We’re not blocking anything,” Gardiner told reporters gathered in his office Tuesday. “If you look at Uber and these other technologies, which are great, they all have worked out agreements with cities and counties around the state, that each have different regulations, and we should respect that.”
Earlier this year, the Senate tried to advance a measure that would have set the minimum automobile liability insurance during gap periods at $125,000 for death and bodily injury per person.
The Senate’s gap coverage would have also required $250,000 for death and bodily injury per incident, and $50,000 for property damage, the same as for cabs and limos regulated by local governments.
The House proposal that passed the House Highway & Waterway Safety Subcommittee last week would require gap coverage of $50,000 for death and bodily injury per person, $100,000 for death and bodily injury per incident and $25,000 for property damage.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican who is the sponsor of the House measure, has said he hopes to be able to “meld” his proposal into any Senate measures for the 2016 session, which starts Jan. 12.
The most-controversial part of the House proposal, however, would prohibit local governments from imposing their own rules on the app-based companies as is done for taxi companies and limousine services.
“We don’t want a circumstance where someone is wanting to comply with the law and wanting to perform a transportation network service and inadvertently crosses a county or municipal line and could become a criminal because he could have disparate insurance requirements or disparate registration requirements,” Gaetz said last week.
Former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, lobbying on behalf of the Florida Taxi Cab Association, has said in opposing the House proposal that the goal isn’t to bar Uber and other app-based rideshare services from Florida. However, she said lawmakers must avoid giving Uber and other app-based services an unfair advantage over taxis and limo services.
Among the issues for the cab companies is part of Gaetz’ proposal that would require Uber and other app-based companies to pay annual fees of $5,000 to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Some cab companies pay more than $100,000 annually in fees with cities and counties.
On Thursday, outgoing Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio determined that Uber drivers should be considered independent contractors instead of company employees.
The decision, reversing an earlier finding by the Department of Revenue, means former Uber drivers are not eligible to file for unemployment insurance in Florida. A former Uber driver has already filed an appeal of the decision.
The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner contributed to this report.