TALLAHASSEE (NSF) – A proposal that would prevent local governments from regulating popular app-based transportation services such as Uber and Lyft continues to roll through the Florida House.
The House Economic Affairs Committee voted 13-2 on Wednesday to advance the measure (HB 509), which remains vastly different from what the Senate has put forward. The bill is ready to go to the full House.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican who has been pushing the "transportation network companies" proposal, said he continues to remain optimistic that the Senate will eventually consider the wider measures in his bill. The proposal, which has been opposed by the Florida Association of Counties, includes preempting local-government rules about the services.
"I think you can see the support for this legislation becoming more bipartisan," Gaetz said. "Last year when I was before this exact committee, with the exact membership, it was party-line vote. This year we seem to be gaining more support across the aisle. Now we're seeking more support across the (Capitol) rotunda."
Gaetz' measure has been approved by two House panels. The Senate has put forward a proposal (SB 1118) that only matches the House in addressing insurance coverage for drivers of the rideshare services.
The coverage deals with what is known as a "gap" period from the time when a driver is notified about having a customer to the actual pickup.
Under the proposal filed by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, drivers for rideshare services would be required during the gap period to have coverage worth $50,000 for death and bodily injury per person, $100,000 for death and bodily injury per incident and $25,000 for property damage. When a passenger is in the vehicle, the Senate and House measures both propose a minimum of $1 million in coverage for death and bodily injury.
The insurance requirements have the support of the insurance industry.
"Without this legislation, TNC drivers may not be covered by their insurance policy, unless they have commercial coverage," Logan McFaddin, government relations manager for Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, said in a release. "The standard personal policy contains a 'livery' exclusion, which applies when the vehicle is being used for hire. Therefore, most personal policies will not cover any damages or losses if a vehicle is an accident while being used for commercial purposes."
Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, has said the state should respect different regulations that have been established and are being set by cities and counties across the state.
Before Wednesday's vote, the House committee added an amendment that would allow people to use rental cars when providing the ride services. Another amendment would require specific information in long-form accident reports to record if rideshare drivers were logged on to the services at the time of accidents.
Former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, lobbying on behalf of the Florida Taxi Cab Association, said lawmakers must avoid giving Uber and other app-based services an unfair advantage over taxis and limo services.
"We're hopefully that we can kind of coexist, but not necessarily give one industry an advantage over the other," Bogdanoff said.
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.
Bogdanoff added that if the House proceeds with plans to prevent local governments from enacting their own regulations on the rideshare programs, airports and seaports should remain under local control.
"We know that between Lyft and Uber they're now paying Broward, with an agreement, nearly $500,000 to access the airport," Bogdanoff said. "There is a willingness on their part to provide revenue to have the same thing, because we have taxi companies that pay a significant amount to have access within the county."
The News Service of Florida's Jim Turner contributed to this report.
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