Uber cheers bill, but debate over ride-sharing regs continues


Legislation regulating Uber and other ride-sharing networks is on its way to the governor, but the debate might not be entirely over.

Taxi driver Jennifer Condie in West Palm Beach expressed concerns the bill does not totally resolve issues such as whether and when personal insurance policies cover ride-sharing drivers.

“Gov. Rick Scott is the last hope for Uber drivers,” Condie said. “Both the House and Senate missed the off-duty insurance gap. A personal auto policy does not magically switch on when you log off your Uber app. We hope the Governor will send the TNC bill back to the Senate and amend it to mandate if the driver’s personal auto policy refuses to cover off duty crash claims the TNC Company will provide contingent insurance of 10/20/10 from the time the driver logs off the app until he logs back on. In the absense of this mandate Uber drivers still have no choice but to continue to lie to their insurance company. ”

Standard auto policies often exclude “livery” or for-hire service.

Steering out of a years-long traffic jam, however, the bill to avoid a patchwork of local regulations for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft passed with relative ease Wednesday.

“This is the transportation network bill we’ve been debating for the last four years,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg — and that was the extent of debate and discussion on the final vote.

The Senate adopted and passed the House version, HB 221, by a 36-1 vote. It now goes to Scott, who is expected to sign it.

Ride-sharing companies and their allies cheered passage.

“Today’s passage of meaningful ride-sharing legislation is a victory for the business community and a strong signal to innovative companies that they are welcome in Florida,” said David Hart, executive vice president for the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Consistent statewide rules should help in a state expected to add residents and visitors in years ahead, supporters said. Florida Chamber Foundation research figures that by 2030, Florida’s population will grow to about 26 million, up by 6 million, and the state could see 160 million annual visitors by 2025.

The bill largely codifies what companies like Uber already do to check driver backgrounds and offer insurance coverage, which includes up to $1 million in liability coverage once a driver picks up a passenger but lower protection or reliance on a driver’s personal policy at other stages.

Taxi and limo companies had earlier raised concerns about an uneven playing field with different standards applying to their industry, and local governments had remained wary of giving up control in a bill that mostly pre-empts their oversight.

The bill does not prohibit an airport from charging reasonable pickup fees consistent with those charged to taxicab companies, a House staff analysis notes.

Uber officials hailed the vote, citing more than 40,000 Florida entrepreneurs actively driving with Uber and more than 1.5 million people in the state using its services.

“The most exciting opportunities are yet to come, as millions of Florida residents and visitors, from Pensacola to Key West, will have permanent access to Uber,” said Uber public affairs director Colin Tooze.



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