As you know from looking at prior posts, I am fascinated with the legalities of Uber, Lyft and the whole concept of ride-sharing programs here in Florida. As a personal injury attorney, I see many risks that could happen while ride-sharing. Not surprisingly, so does the Florida legislature. Currently, the Florida Senate and House are in Committee before the Legislature officially kicks off their 2016 season on March 1, 2016. There are two proposed bills going through the Florida House and Senate that are addressing these ride-sharing companies are quite different. This past fall, we saw a series of Uber issues vying for position heading down the legislative session straightaway. Now, the Florida House settled on HB 509, the bill being pushed by our local Rep. Matt Gaetz. The proposed bill, which passed 108-10 with no debate, would prevent local governments from regulating the self-described transportation network companies.
An editorial in the Palm Beach Post by the Opinion Staff sees it as a laissez-faire argument.
The House’s laissez-faire argument that the state take a free-market approach to the new ride-booking technologies is a convenient dodge, letting legislators sit back and see what happens while watching the ride-booking services’ ride-first, rules-later business model run roughshod. It all speaks more to who has the best lobbyists than who really wants to legislate the best public good.
The editorial made some good points that I bet will come to fruition if the State takes this “hands off approach”. They are giving free run of the road to the increasingly popular smartphone-based transportation services such as Uber and Lyft. That’s a misguided detour from the real statewide regulatory framework the public deserves for the new high-tech taxicab companies, whose freelance drivers in private vehicles and their passengers find each other via smartphone applications.
What the legislators should be doing is addressing pressing issues with these ride-sharing groups including topics such as the following:
· insurance requirements that truly protect the public,
· to whether drivers are independent contractors,
· to whether they can use rental cars when providing the ride services.
· addressing cities’ and counties’ opposition
· addressing traditional taxicab and limousine companies’ ongoing gripe of being placed at competitive disadvantage by local regulations that apply to them but not the new “technicabs.”
On the other hand, the Senate Bill looks much different. Their proposed bill addresses many of the above referenced issues. As the Opinion Staff of the Palm Beach Post acknowledged, it isn’t perfect yet, it is more focused on insurance requirements for the services’ drivers – specifically the gap between when a driver is notified of having a customer and the actual pickup. As Senate President Andy Gardiner, R. Orlando, told the Post, “We’re not blocking anything. If you look at Uber and these other technologies, which are great, they all have worked out agreements with cities and counties around the state, that each have different regulations, and we should respect that.”
I agree with this editorial, the House needs to come around and realize that these transportation network companies are running their local political opposition – and needed consumer protections – off the road.