After not taking up ridesharing legislation during either the Legislature’s earlier this year or its special session in June, Florida has left ridesharing companies subject to the often harsh jurisdiction of local governments.
During the regular session, both Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, and Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, had proposed ridesharing bills die respectively in the State House and Senate. While the bills slightly differed in some aspects, they both established fair regulations, including minimum insurance requirements, background checks and vehicle inspections. There briefly was an effort during the special session to call for a state-financed study and a moratorium on local rules, but that was quickly withdrawn, reportedly under orders from Senate President Andy Gardiner.
Vastly different from Rep. Gaetz and Sen. Brandes’ proposed legislation, local governments in Sarasota and Broward County have exerted overly-burdensome regulations that have all but obliterated the ridesharing market in their respective regions.
This past Monday, Sarasota city commissioners voted unanimously to accept the first reading of some of the harshest ridesharing regulations in the country. The laundry list of reprehensible rules includes fingerprint analysis, both a permit and public transport license, a log of all trips, drivers not being allowed to curse or yell and two large signs to put on the vehicle to designate it as a ride-for-hire.
The list of aforementioned rules raises several red flags. TNC’s all already institute background checks and have rating systems to ensure the safest and most satisfactory customer experience, so why the need for two certifications, fingerprinting and restricting driver speech? These measures are not only excessive, but intrusive to individual rights.
Additionally, keeping a log of all trips will perpetuate existing concerns about the privacy of consumer data.
Based on the intrusiveness of these potential regulations in Sarasota, it wouldn’t be surprising if TNC’s ceased operations in the city. Only two days ago, Uber exhibited its intolerance for such regulations by its decision to pull out of Broward County.
The suspension of services in Broward County will officially go into effect July 31. Similar to Sarasota, Broward County mandated fingerprint analysis and both a permit and chauffeur registration. The county also required its TNC drivers to carry state-required commercial insurance.
An online petition to keep Uber in Broward has collected nearly 73,000 signatures, but that effort appears unlikely to avoid the company’s withdrawal. Broward County Mayor has said the commission won’t revisit the ridesharing ordinance until at least August.
Dan Lindblade, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, shared Uber’s frustrations and stated:
[This is] bad for the citizens, bad for our tourism industry, bad for our economy. It’s just overregulation. They could have done something else than just hammer it all the way to the wall. They went too far.
Unfortunately, this isn’t out of the ordinary for the state of Florida, as cities such as Orlando have imposed significant barriers to competition and innovation through its regulations of transportation network companies. Speculation abounds that more local ordinances – like one set to go into effect in Tallahassee – might lead the company to pull out of other cities and counties. Broward’s neighbor to the north, Palm Beach County, already has plans to revisit its ridesharing ordinance in the fall.
Given the mess this patchwork of local rules is creating, a sensible framework for ridesharing has to be near the top of the agenda when the state Legislature reconvenes.