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PTC calls for legal cease-fire with Uber, Lyft

The ongoing legal battle between Hillsborough County regulators and rideshare companies Uber and Lyft may temporarily pause until the end of next year’s legislative session.
The ongoing legal battle between Hillsborough County regulators and rideshare companies Uber and Lyft may temporarily pause until the end of next year’s legislative session.
Published Oct. 2, 2015

TAMPA — There may be a temporary cease-fire in the ongoing legal battle between local regulators and rideshare companies.

Public Transportation Commission Chairman Victor Crist said the board's lawyers contacted Uber and Lyft to see if they're interested in a temporary postponement of all legal action until the end of next year's legislative session.

"If we move forward with litigation and the Legislature goes in a different direction, we would have spent and wasted a lot of money and time," Crist said Thursday. "The reasonable, commonsense thing to do is wait a little while longer, see what direction the Legislature chooses to go, and then regroup and go from there."

The PTC, which regulates for-hire vehicles in Hillsborough County, has had a contentious relationship with the rideshare companies since they started operating locally in April 2014. The PTC said Uber and Lyft violate local laws regarding permits, licenses, insurance, background checks and vehicle checks.

Initially, regulators responded with tickets and fines. That soon escalated to legal action.

The PTC has three legal cases under way that it would postpone until after the session. Most recently, a Hillsborough circuit judge denied a motion from regulators asking for an injunction that could have forced Uber to stop serving Hillsborough. Pasco and Pinellas counties don't regulate for-hire vehicles.

This is the PTC's second recent pacifying action. The board voted last month to stop ticketing rideshare drivers through October while its ongoing legal struggle to compel the companies to obey local laws makes its way through the courts.

Uber indicated it would be willing to wait until after the Tampa Bay legislative delegation meets in December before moving forward with its appeal, Crist said. Uber and Lyft did not respond to requests for comment from the Tampa Bay Times.

The local delegation is reviewing two bills regarding rideshare regulations: one sponsored by rideshare advocate Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and the other authored by Crist and sponsored by a former PTC chairman, Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City. The two bills differ on insurance and background requirements.

However, Brandes' bill also calls for eliminating the PTC.

"We're hoping those two bills get debated out and merged into one," Crist said. "What we're looking for is consensus building."

Contact Caitlin Johnston at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3401. Follow @cljohnst.