Oct 19 2015

Florida Attempts to Regulate Ride-Booking Companies

An initiative to govern how companies such as Uber and Lyft operate has gained steam.

The days of ride-booking companies such as Lyft and Uber conducting business with free rein in Florida are numbered, as the state is preparing to drop a regulatory hammer. State and local officials currently favor laws that would monitor how the companies operate.

Gov. Rick Scott previously expressed a desire for legislation that would both stimulate the expansion of Lyft and Uber and take passengers’ safety into consideration, StateScoop reports. According to Michael Hernandez, director of communications for Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, the lack of regulation is “unacceptable.”

“We absolutely must address the issues that we’re currently facing with Uber and Lyft operating outside of the regulatory code and taxicabs not being able to compete with these companies,” Hernandez said, according to StateScoop.

That’s the major issue on a local level: Lyft and Uber are taking business away from taxi companies. As StateScoop notes, passengers often opt for the ride-sharing companies because the cars are cleaner and the customer service is better. But lawmakers also believe they have a right to know certain information about the drivers. Gimenez is reportedly considering a bill that would create these standards:

The law could provide a series of benchmarks for drivers to meet, like background checks, minimum insurance requirements and vehicle age limits.

“Residents and visitors want to have some level of confidence that the person they’re hailing using an app has passed a background check and has the appropriate licensing,” Hernandez said.

Furthermore, Miami-Dade County wants to make the rules less strict for the taxicab industry by allowing more taxi drivers to work in the area. Hernandez told StateScoop that Gimenez plans to send proposals to the Board of County Commissioners by next month.

Two bills that would’ve demanded that ride-share drivers be covered by insurance in the event of an accident almost passed at the state level earlier this year. Sen. David Simmons, who sponsored one of the bills, said they were thwarted by a political disagreement. There’s a good chance he’ll present his bill again when legislative sessions resume in 2016:

Simmons said he’s strongly considering reintroducing his bill when the Legislature reconvenes in January. If the Legislature takes up ride-sharing again, the companies will be prepared: Florida’s state database shows that Lyft and Uber registered 25 lobbyists with the Legislature.

Both the state and the county face challenges to imposing regulations, but the consensus is that a plan is needed.

“Policymakers need to make a decision and stick to it, and then everybody needs to start playing by those rules,” Mears Transportation executive and Florida Taxicab Association board member Roger Chapin said.


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