Florida Battle for Ridesharing Regulations Nears End of Long Road

By Ana Ceballos | April 21, 2017

After a four-year battle in the Florida Legislature, lawmakers on Wednesday passed statewide regulations for ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft that would undo a patchwork of local rules across the state.

“Florida’s patchwork of ridesharing regulations is finally history,” said Samantha Sexton, vice president of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs for the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida. “[This bill] ensures that when drivers are operating during the app-on to app-off time frame, there are clear levels of required insurance to protect the driver, passengers and others sharing the roadways. If enacted, the bill will clarify the claims process, which will help consumers recover their losses faster.”

Lawmakers were quick to send the measure (HB 221) to Gov. Rick Scott, who has yet to take a definitive stand on the issue. If it is signed into law, Florida would create a single statewide set of rules on the ridesharing industry.

Uber and Lyft currently have tens of thousands of drivers in Florida, and the proposed legislation would help them expand their app-based services throughout the state.

Lyft spokesman Chelsea Harrison said in a statement the company welcomes the bill’s passage because it provides certainty for its customers.

With this bill, local ordinances targeting ridesharing services would be overturned on July 1. That includes local rules in the Florida Keys where Uber and Lyft can’t operate.

“Florida’s future is directly tied to its ability to encourage innovation, and ridesharing services represent a groundbreaking transportation option for Florida’s residents and visitors,” said Sen. Bill Galvano, a co-sponsor of the bill. “This legislation will boost economic opportunity for the thousands of ridesharing drivers in Florida, while prioritizing public safety.”

Under the bill, drivers would have to undergo criminal background checks to weed out people with certain convictions, including sexual assault and drunken driving. The bill would also require drivers to carry a $1 million liability insurance policy.

Local governments could not slap new regulations on the companies, but they could impose airport pickup fees as long as cab drivers face the same fees.

Those fees are now up for negotiation. Uber spokesman Colin Tooze said the company will be talking to airport officials in the coming weeks to begin striking deals.

The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), applauded the passage of the bill.

“PCI urges Governor Scott to expeditiously sign the bill into law and make Florida the 46th state along with the District of Columbia to take action on this public policy priority,” said Logan McFaddin, regional manager for PCI.

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