State could soon take over ridesharing regulations

- After years of fighting at the local level, it's now up to Florida Governor Rick Scott to decide who should regulate Uber and Lyft.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 36-1 to approve a bill (HB 221) that would create statewide rules for ridesharing. The bill already passed the House.

The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission (PTC) is one of several agencies that has fought to create local standards for ridesharing services, in order to even the playing field with taxi and limo drivers.

In the past, the PTC has banned the ridesharing services from operating in Hillsborough County. Drivers caught making pick ups and drop offs were ticketed.

"Uber drivers are just trying to make a living. They're just regular people, so this [bill] is very helpful," said Randy Price, who has driven for Uber in his spare time over the past six months.

Price said the varying regulations for Uber drivers across different counties and cities complicates the job.

"If you think about it, on any given day, I drive through 30 or 40 communities," said Price. "Different towns, different municipalities, three counties, for sure. I would have to have a fleet of lawyers to figure it all out."

While passage of the bill could simplify life for drivers, PTC officials are concerned that the same can't be said for passengers. By removing local government from regulation, riders would have to take all issues and complaints to the state level.

"Let's say the driver was drunk, charged them double what they should have or did something inappropriate, at the local level they would come to their local agencies, whichever county they were in, and file a complaint with whatever department was there. In this case, you no longer can do that. You're going to have to go to the state," said Kevin Jackson, Transitional Director for the PTC.

The bill reads that regulation of ridesharing would be handled by the Florida Department of Financial Services.

Jackson said the PTC hoped to require Uber and Lyft drivers to complete a Level 2 background check, like taxi drivers, which would require their fingerprints.

The only local regulation that would remain if the bill becomes law is at the port and airports, where Uber and Lyft drivers could still be charged a pick up fee, as long as it's the same amount that taxi drivers are charged.

Governor Scott's office has not yet said if he plans to sign or veto the bill.

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