After a six-month reprieve, the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission – the agency that regulates taxicabs and limousines in Florida’s fourth-largest county, which includes the City of Tampa – voted yesterday to resume its practice of issuing tickets to drivers for ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft who fail to meet local licensing regulations.

Following a contentious 17-month period during which it went on a ticket-writing spree, the commission suspended the practice back in September 2015 in anticipation of the Florida Legislature taking up statewide standards during this legislative session. But the session is set to close tomorrow and hopes for a comprehensive bill already are all-but-dashed.

In addition to resuming tickets, the commission also voted to continue its lawsuit against Uber in the 2nd District Court of Appeal, which will determine whether it has statutory authority to regulate the ridesharing industry.

The disappointing news caps what’s been a frustrating session for advocates of ridesharing. In January, the Florida House passed legislation based on the year-old national compromise between the insurance and ridesharing sectors. Sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, H.B. 509 flew through the chamber with a bipartisan supermajority of 108-10.

Gaetz’s bill would require $1 million in coverage any time a driver is actively engaged in a picking up or transporting a passenger. During the so-called “Period 1,” when a driver is logged in to the app but hasn’t been summoned, it would require bodily injury liability of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per incident, as well as $25,000 in coverage for property damage.

But Gaetz’s bill couldn’t find traction in the Senate. Instead, the main Senate legislationS.B. 1118, sponsored by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs – would have upped those levels to $125,000 per-person, $250,000 per-incident and $50,000 in property damage. It also included an unprecedented requirement that, even when a ridesharing driver is NOT logged in to an app and thus not engaged in ridesharing at all, he or she must carry personal insurance with limits of $25,000, $50,000 and $10,000. All other drivers in Florida, a no-fault state, are required to carry just $10,000 of personal injury protection and $10,000 for property damage.

Moreover, unlike Gaetz’s bill, which would prohibit local licensing and permitting requirements, Simmons’ bill would not pre-empt local regulation of ridesharing services. Gaetz’s bill also would have explicitly defined ridesharing drivers as independent contractors, a matter on which Simmons’ bill is silent.

H.B. 1439, a separate House bill filed by Reps. Dana Young, R-Tampa and Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City, would have carved out an exemption from statewide deregulatory pre-emption explicitly for the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission. The bill would retain the commission’s authority to regulate the services with required insurance and background checks, though it expressly prohibits HCPTC from banning them outright. In early February, the measure passed the House Economic Affairs Committee by a 15-1 vote, but it never made it to the House floor.

Simmons expressed interest in working with other leaders to amend his bill, potentially to include some elements of the House-passed version. But there was strong opposition from Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, against the chamber taking up any measure that went beyond resolving insurance and liability issues.

In a last ditch effort, six Florida mayors – including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman – sent a letter to Gardiner Wednesday urging the Senate to take up the House-passed bill. It’s not expected to sway him.

But there is a ray of hope that the issue might finally be resolved next year: Gardiner will be replaced as Senate president in 2017 by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart. In a statement distributed last month, Negron was quoted saying:

I support a standard, statewide set of modern regulations to create a permanent home for ridesharing here in the Sunshine State.

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