State Sen. Ronda Storms wants to kill the Public Transportation Commission, but a majority of Tampa City Council members say it should be spared.
The council voted 5-1 late Thursday to send a letter to the county's legislative delegation in support of the commission. Council member Mary Mulhern voted no. Council member Joseph Caetano was absent.
Created by state law, the Public Transportation Commission in Hillsborough County is the only agency of its kind in Florida. It regulates taxis, limos, ambulances, tow trucks, and other vehicles for hire — work that Storms says county staff could do more cheaply and professionally.
Council member Curtis Stokes said he brought up the matter because the commission does "a great job." It does not cost taxpayers money, he said, as it is self-funded through fees paid by the companies it regulates.
With the Republican National Convention coming to town in 2012, "we need an agency like that" to make sure cabbies represent the city well and don't overcharge, he said.
Council member Charlie Miranda likewise said he didn't see the point of abolishing the commission.
But Storms, R-Valrico, says the commission adopts nonsensical rules — cabbies must wear socks, for instance — and creates time-consuming problems for state employees. Critics say it also allows the companies being regulated to wield outsized influence with the local elected officials who sit on the commission.
It's like Jabba the Hutt, she said, with tentacles that reach everywhere.
She's not alone. State Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, is co-sponsoring the bill.
Mulhern said that based on what she's heard about Storms' reasons, she has no problem with the Legislature taking a hard look at the commission. "It does seem like an extra layer of government," she said. Hillsborough County commissioners have previously opposed Storms' bill. But Commissioner Mark Sharpe plans to ask his colleagues to reconsider when they meet Wednesday. He couldn't be reached for comment late Friday.
Times staff writer Bill Varian contributed to this report.