Saturday, June 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Rideshare bills need more work

Florida legislators have worked for four years to create a statewide legal framework for allowing rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft to compete with traditional taxicabs. Yet they are addressing just two of the three major public safety issues at play. If the state pre-empts local governments from regulating rideshare companies, it should at least create a framework that better protects consumers than bills that have passed the House and are poised to be considered by the full Senate.

Rideshare services have challenged attempts by counties to regulate them as taxis, asserting that their phone-based hailing system makes them different from the old business model of the regulated market for taxicabs. In reality, the two are more similar than they are different, making money by using the public roadways to carry paying passengers.

But a county-by-county approach is not ideal, and ridesharing should operate across the state in a uniform legal environment. That predictability would be good for business, and it would give consumers an expectation of a certain service level. That would make for a healthier and more competitive market.

The House unanimously passed a bill (HB 221) this week that fills a critical void by requiring that rideshare operators carry insurance (at levels higher than now required of taxis). Drivers would be subjected to background checks, though those searches would fall short of a fingerprint-based process now required of the taxi industry in some jurisdictions that law enforcement says is more accurate and up-to-date. A final version of the bill should strengthen the background checks.

The bill also says nothing about vehicle inspections. In Hillsborough County, local rules require these inspections of taxis to ensure the vehicles are safe enough not to endanger their passengers or others on the road.

In Tallahassee, the insurance provision marks a significant breakthrough. But the background checks are too weak. The industry has a self-interest in not damaging its own brand. And there's no reason to ignore vehicle inspections. It's not too much to ask that brakes, taillights, tires and seat belts all be in good working order. This is the cheapest and least onerous of the three main safety provisions to address. If it's vital enough to impose on taxicabs, why not the rideshare industry?

Neither bill requires rideshare companies to obtain a business license to operate, a huge concession that only skews the playing field against the taxicab industry. Both bills also forbid local government from imposing any licenses, fees or restrictions on their own. What business in Florida operates without a basic license?

The House and Senate bills do more than accommodate a new industry. They give preference to rideshare at the expense of their competitors and public safety. In Hillsborough County alone, the rideshare industry, as part of an agreement to end litigation and enter the market, paid $375,000 in fees to the county. How can the Legislature now turn around and claim this industry should not pay a penny or even obtain a license to compete?

Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, voted to send the bill out of the Rules Committee on Thursday, but not before raising concerns that the enforcement measures under the bill were weak and relied virtually on self-policing by rideshare operators. That is one of many deficiencies the Senate needs to fix and then send a more rigorous rideshare bill back to the House.

Comments
Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

It’s hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bay’s two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. That’s the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney general’s misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect — prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18