Statewide ridesharing rules ready to go in Florida House
One such bill that overwhelmingly passed its first committee of reference is H.B. 509, sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, which would create statewide regulations for transportation network companies (TNCs). The bill is similar to last year’s so-called “Uber bill,” also filed by Gaetz, which ended up one of many casualties of the war between the Republican-controlled House and Senate last session.
This year there has been more pressure on Florida lawmakers to adopt statewide regulations governing TNCs, as many localities throughout the state have been implementing oftentimes conflicting regulations. Some local governments, like the City of Tallahassee, have enacted what many view as commonsense regulations that allow both traditional taxi cab companies and TNCs to coexist; others, including localities in the state’s populous southeastern counties haven’t been as hospitable.
Gaetz is once again proposing the statewide TNC regulations his bill will create should pre-empt local governments. This remains the bill’s most contentious provision, and one that is sure to face some opposition.
Representatives of the taxicab industry, as well as local governments and the League of Cities, attended last Wednesday’s Highway and Waterway Safety Subcommittee to voice their opposition to the bill, including concerns that the bill will put taxis at a competitive disadvantage. Taxis are regulated at the local level, and many are required to abide by onerous regulations, high permitting fees and medallion systems that dramatically increase the cost of operating a taxi. Gaetz addressed these concerns with an offer to deregulate the taxi cab industry at the state level, which he says the industry has not taken him up on in the past.
Speaking in favor of the bill was a Tallahassee-area Uber driver who offered his personal story to committee members, including how the proliferation of TNC drivers in the state capital has led to a decrease in drunken-driving arrests in the area. Ultimately, the bill passed 10-1 with broad bipartisan support.
Specifically, the bill provides that:
- TNC drivers are not required to register their vehicles as commercial or for-hire vehicles, and that they do not provide taxi or for-hire vehicle service;
- TNCs must pay an annual permitting fee no greater than $5,000 to fund enforcement of these regulations;
- TNCs must disclose their fares to passengers ahead of time, and must provide an electronic receipt;
- TNCs must provide the identification of vehicles and drivers by license plate and drivers’ pictures;
- TNC drivers are independent contractors if certain conditions are met, and TNCs are not required to provide workers’ compensation coverage for their independent contractors;
- TNCs must adopt a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drug or alcohol use;
- TNC drivers must meet or pass certain criteria, including a criminal background check and a driving history report;
- Vehicles used by TNC drivers must meet certain safety and emissions requirements;
- TNC drivers may not accept street hails or cash payments;
- TNCs may not discriminate against drivers and they must develop policies on nondiscrimination and accessibility;
- TNCs must archive certain records for a minimum period of time;
- Local governments may not impose additional taxes or license requirements on TNCs beyond those the state is implementing with this legislation; and
- TNCs and their drivers must maintain certain minimum insurance coverages, which will differ based on whether the driver is logged in to the TNC, when he or she is connected to a passenger for a requested pickup and when he or she is actually transporting passengers. These provisions were agreed upon earlier this year by major national insurers and TNCs in a landmark compromise brokered in part by the R Street Institute.
A companion bill has yet to be filed in the state Senate, but unlike House members, senators are not confined to limited bill slots. As such, it is expected that an identical or similar bill will be introduced before the Senate’s bill-filing deadline in January.