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Uber Revs Effort For Spot In Special Session

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MIAMI (CBSMiami/NSF) --  Uber is revving up their efforts for a spot in the Legislature's special session.

The regular legislative session ended last week without approval of a proposal for statewide regulations that would override local rules for fast-growing transportation networks such as Uber. Also, lawmakers failed to take action on new insurance requirements for the ride-sharing companies.

Now, the San Francisco-based Uber has set up a web page to gather signatures from riders and supporters urging that ride-sharing issues be considered when lawmakers get together in June to negotiate a budget.

"Although the Florida Legislature adjourned this session without passing ride sharing legislation, they still have an opportunity in the coming weeks to get it done," Uber said on the webpage. "Legislators can finish what they started by taking up ride sharing legislation as part of the upcoming special session."

Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for Senate President Andy Gardiner, said Wednesday that there have been no formal requests about adding topics to the special session.

But Uber, which didn't reply to a request for comment, is openly lobbying to have a non-budgetary issue included in the June 1 to June 20 special session. The website shows the company quickly surpassed its initial goal of 20,000 signatures by Wednesday afternoon and upped its target to 30,000.

The House and Senate were advancing separate bills focused on ride-sharing programs when the House abruptly adjourned last week because of a budget impasse.

The House action left unresolved a measure (SB 1298) by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, that would have created a new layer of insurance coverage specifically for app-based ride-share drivers.

The abrupt adjournment also killed a separate proposal (HB 817) by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, that would have prohibited local governments or special districts from imposing taxes or license requirements on ride-share services, as taxi and limo companies now face.

Simmons said Wednesday he intends to discuss with Gardiner including Uber insurance measures, as well as other issues, in the special session.

"If we can reach some kind of consensus between us and the House, we both agree that there needs to be insurance coverage for all these people out there on the road," said Simmons, who is the Senate rules chairman.

But Simmons said he won't make any demands that could negatively impact budget talks.

"We want to get as many things resolved as possible by consensus," Simmons continued. "At the same time, we don't want to derail the primary focus, which is to get the budget completed."

The House and Senate ride-sharing proposals would have required the companies to provide at least $1 million in liability coverage for death, bodily injury and property damage while passengers are in the vehicles, which are not owned by the companies but by the drivers.

But the House and Senate remain apart in terms of overall insurance coverage and other aspects of the services.

Uber lobbyists favored the House's regulatory measures, with less strict insurance coverage requirements, for most of the session. But just before the House adjourned, lobbyists for the ride-sharing service were raising concerns about the level of background checks being sought for drivers.

While the House and Senate agreed Wednesday to hold the special session during the first three weeks of June, it is unclear whether non-budget issues will be considered. Last Thursday, in proposing that the special session run from June 1 to June 20, Gardiner said the Legislature should only include bills that had reached a point where conference committees had been requested.

Other than bills tied directly to the budget (SB 2500) and Medicaid programs, issues that have reached the conference stage include a series of bills involved in carrying out a land-conservation ballot initiative known as Amendment 1; a wide-ranging transportation bill (SB 7054) that includes $25 million for the SunTrail pedestrian and bicycle network backed by Gardiner; and the creation of an online "Business Information Portal" (SB 2510) providing information on starting and operating businesses in Florida.

(The News Service of Florida's Jim Turner contributed to this report.)



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