Uber, other ride-sharing services gearing up for state fight in Legislature

TALLAHASSEE — Some state lawmakers are doing what they can to help Uber, with bills filed in both chambers for the smartphone app-based car service.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, this year filed a bill setting statewide standards on insurance coverage and background checks. That would clear the way for Uber, and similar upstarts like Lyft, to break free of some local regulation. Previous pro-Uber bills failed last year.

Another bill in the House filed by state Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, goes even further, totally reserving regulation to the state and cutting out local bodies, such as Collier County code enforcement investigators.

The battle for San Francisco-based Uber pits the new against the old: An emerging technology favored by urban millennials against the legacy taxi and limousine services that say the new services don’t play fair. Customers use an application on their smartphone to find available Uber drivers, who may use their own vehicles and don’t necessarily carry commercial insurance.

The “transportation network companies” say they’re technology companies first — not taxi services.

Taxi and limousine operators, on the other hand, have said these newcomers are unfair competition because they don’t play by the same rules, including rules governing minimum wait times and fares.

Unlike cabs, Uber’s prices can spike during times of high demand, such as bad weather. But its fans say drivers’ response time can be much faster than cabs.

“We applaud Sen. Brandes and Rep. Gaetz for taking this important step forward in establishing clear, uniform rules for ridesharing across the entire state,” Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett said. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Legislature and providing access to safe, reliable rides and the jobs they create.”

Entire Article: .pdf | Naples Daily News