Two Tampa Bay lawmakers are making a last-minute push to help the app-based luxury car service Uber.
Uber operates in Jacksonville, but has been blocked by local governments in other cities, including Tampa.
Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, proposed legislation that would let Uber and similar companies win approval directly from the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
The bills (SB 1618/HB 1389) were scaled back during the session. Now, they would enable Uber to operate in Tampa by limiting the power of the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission. No other government bodies would be affected.
Brandes considers the measure an important first step.
"We shouldn't be a laughing stock for our refusal to embrace innovation," he said.
Brandes and Grant held a news conference Monday in hopes of building momentum. The lawmakers were joined by Uber driver Eric Barney, who drove his black Escalade from Jacksonville to Tallahassee. Barney's trunk was stuffed with 13,000 pro-Uber petitions.
Grant acknowledged that the bill has a complicated path forward. Since the Senate version is stalled in committee, Grant will likely need to amend the Uber language onto a separate transportation bill.
"I think you'll see something on the floor this week," Grant said. "We're looking at every option."
Opponents say Uber should have to play by the same rules as cabs.
Clinton Fla. bound
Former President Bill Clinton, one of the Democratic Party's most popular figures, is headlining the Florida party's Jefferson-Jackson dinner June 28 at the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood.
Clinton's appearance indicates how serious the Florida Democratic Party is in trying to compete with Gov. Rick Scott's cash-raising juggernaut in 2014 — and it's also a sign of the Clinton family's interest in swing-state Florida as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mulls a 2016 presidential run.
Tickets start at $225.
Ehrlich not running
Jessica Ehrlich, a Democrat who ran for Congress in 2012 and then bowed out of the Congressional District 13 special election this year to make way for Alex Sink, says she will not run in the regularly scheduled general election this fall. Democrat Manuel Sykes has said he intends to run against newly elected U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores.
Here is a statement from Ehrlich: "New and exciting opportunities have come my way which will help me better serve my neighbors, the voters of the 13th, and all Floridians. I would like to thank all those who reached out to me encouraging me to run for their unwavering support and know that we will continue to fight together for a brighter future."
Miami Herald staff writer Marc Caputo and Times staff writer Curtis Krueger contributed.