Uber, Lyft Florida bill dies

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Update Friday: Uber expressed regret at the death of bills to set statewide rules for ride-hailing services.

“It’s unfortunate that the voices of tens of thousands of Floridians asking for a simple up- or-down vote in the Senate were drowned out by a handful of entrenched special interests,” said Uber spokesman Bill Gibbons.

“Uber would like to thank the supporters in the Legislature and throughout the State of Florida who fiercely advocated for secure access to transportation and flexible work for all Floridians,” he continued. “We are committed to providing safe, reliable transportation options throughout the state, and will continue to work to secure permanent access to Uber in Florida.”

A Lyft spokesman offered similar sentiments.

“After countless hours working together with legislative leaders like Sen. Jeff Brandes, Rep. Matt Gaetz, and Rep. James Grant to develop a comprehensive framework for ridesharing, we are disappointed that the Florida Senate has decided to go another year without passing meaningful legislation,” a Lyft statement said. “It’s long past time that the Legislature provides statewide clarity for the tens of thousands of Floridians who have embraced the safe, affordable rides Lyft provides across the state. We look forward to continuing to work with leaders in both the House and Senate to ensure that Florida joins the ranks of more than half of states in the nation that have established meaningful ridesharing legislation.”

The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida said it was “disappointed.”

“This legislation would have created insurance requirements to adequately protect (transportation network company) drivers and their riders in the unfortunate event of an accident or injury,’’ said Michael Carlson, PIFF’s executive director. “The Legislature’s failure to take action allows inconsistencies in the rules and could leave drivers and the public vulnerable should something happen while they are on the road.’’

That kicks the burden back to counties and cities to set their own rules.

Update Thursday: A fight over statewide regulations for ride services like Uber will continue into the session’s final day Friday.

Sen. David Simmons, the Florida Senate sponsor, said on the chamber floor negotiations will continue for another day as key differences remain on insurance requirements for drivers and local control of some rules.

In some cases neither a driver’s personal policy nor the ride-hailing company’s insurance might adequately cover a claim — or cover it all — if state lawmakers don’t get this right, he said. He gave an example of a driver dropping off someone off in Palm Beach County and driving home to another county at 3 a.m.

“Right now the citizens of Florida are at massive risk,” Simmons said. “Something needs to be done.”

For its part, Uber dropped off petitions urging action at the Senate President’s office during the Senate break for lunch.

Update Wednesday: “My first thought was I’ve gotten old,” Gardiner told reporters about the Uber campaign calling him out. “The picture they’re using is from 1987 I think.”

The Senate again postponed action on its version of a bill to regulate ride services like Uber on Wednesday, leaving only two days in the session.

Senate bill sponsor Sen. David  Simmons “continues to try to negotiate in good faith with all parties including Uber,” Gardiner said.

Original post: Uber says it’s turning on a new app because without some movement, a bill to regulate ride-hailing services in Florida is off.

Uber unveiled a software application on Monday designed to apply mobile-phone and social-media pressure on the Florida Senate president to bring legislation to a vote in the session’s final week.

“Uber launches a new app experience, VOTE, in Florida asking riders to vote on access to Uber throughout the state and take to social media to voice their support,” company spokesman Bill Gibbons said.

Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, “continues to hide behind procedural excuses for why he won’t allow his colleagues in the Senate to take an up-or-down vote on the House ridesharing bill,” Gibbons said. “That bill passed the Florida House of Representatives with overwhelmingly bipartisan support (108-10) more than five weeks ago.”

Gibbons continued, “It’s not that hard to hold a vote. The only thing standing in the way of secure access to Uber for all Floridians is the Senate President’s loyalty to the entrenched special interests and his lifelong friends in the taxi industry.”

The Florida House passed a version Uber and other ride services favor.  It forbids local governments to set any rules on background checks or other matters, saying it avoids a patchwork of regulations. The Senate version, which waits a floor vote, pre-empts local governments only on insurance requirements and beefs up required coverage in certain situations.

Taxi interests say proposed legislation lets Uber escape many requirements they face, and provides no insurance coverage in certain situations. Example: An Uber driver picks up a street hail, or kindly agrees to take an elderly woman to the  doctor on Tuesdays because she finds the app difficult to use. It is against company policy but various media reports show it happens. But a claim on the driver’s personal policy could be denied completely by his insurer based on a “livery” exclusion if there’s a paying passenger in the car. Net result: No coverage at all.

A spokeswoman for Gardiner offered this statement:

“During the 2016 Legislative Session, no Senator filed a companion to the House Bill requiring state preemption. The bill filed in the Senate is related to liability and insurance and is on the Senate calendar and available for a vote on the Senate floor.”

The statement continued, “Pulling a House Bill with no Senate sponsor that has never been heard in a single Senate Committee from its committees of reference and taking it up on the Senate floor requires the unanimous consent of the Senate. Any Senator can make such a motion at any time.”

Gardiner’s office  referred questions on off-app coverage to a staff analysis of the Senate bill here:
http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2016/1118/Analyses/2016s1118.ap.PDF

According to that analysis, while the Senate provides beefed-up coverage amounts to be carried by the driver and/or ride service even while the app is off, it calls for a warning that off-app rides are illegal and will not be covered. That means ride-share drivers with the app off  can become a “100% uninsured motorist,” taxi driver Jennifer Condie of West Palm Beach said.

Meanwhile, the Uber app is on, in service of this message: “Florida deserves access to ridesharing — but Andy Gardiner is selling us out to his rich taxi friends and restricting our access.”

 

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