Uber bill easily clears first hurdle in Legislature
With just one "no" vote in its first committee, legislation that would stop local governments from regulating companies like Uber and Lyft appears to be a on a fast track to passage by the Florida House.
The bill (HB 221) by Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, sets insurance and background check requirements for ridesharing companies that use smartphone apps to connect users with drivers. More significantly, it tells local governments they cannot set their own conflicting regulations.
A House transportation subcommittee passed it on a 14-1 vote Wednesday. Just one more committee -- the Government Accountability Committee -- will weigh in before the full chamber takes a vote. A similar bill in the Senate (SB 340) by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, has not yet had its first hearing, though it is expected to in the coming weeks.
Uber and Lyft are the subject of years of debate in the state Capitol. Though the House passed legislation similar to HB 221 last year, the state Senate stood in the way. But new Senate President Joe Negron appears more supportive of the legislation.
Sprowls said his legislation will provide uniformity in regulation statewide, ending situations where neighboring communities have different laws on the books. Hillsborough County, for example, has long taken a harder line on Uber and Lyft than Pinellas County, putting drivers under different sets of rules whenever they cross the Howard Frankland Bridge.
The lone dissenter Wednesday was Miami Gardens Democrat Rep. Barbara Watson, who said she worries about high prices during peak times -- she called it "price gouging" -- and accessibility for disabled riders.