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State lawmakers pledge to regulate ridesharing in 2017, call on PTC to suspend action on new rules

A coalition of Democratic and Republican lawmakers are the latest to come out against proposed strict rideshare regulations ahead of a critical vote by the Public Transportation Commission Wednesday.

In a letter to PTC board members, House Majority Leader Dana Young urges PTC board members to reject the proposed regulations that include fingerprint background check, vehicle inspections and a 7-minute minimum wait time. (Taxicab firms indicated Tuesday they won't press for the minimum wait time requirement.)

She also pledged that the state will pass a statewide regulatory framework for ridesharing in the 2017 legislative session and that the PTC should suspend any action on regulations until then.

Uber, the nation's biggest rideshare firms has warned that the rules the PTC is considering may force it to abandon the Hillsborough County market.

"The current proposal currently under consideration by the Public Transportation Commission is plainly designed to be an anti-competitive attempt to push ridesharing companies out of Hillsborough County," Young wrote. "If this occurs, our constituents will pay the price by losing a safe and reliable transportation option."

The letter is signed by state House Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran, state Sens. Jeff Brandes, Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson, and by state Reps. Larry Ahern, Danny Burgess, James Grant, Shawn Harrison, Jake Raburn, Dan Raulerson, Darryl Rouson and Ross Spano.

In it, Young states that ridesharing is a valuable transit option for tourists and also gives residents an option to avoid DUIs.

The PTC, which regulates for hire vehicles in Hillsborough, has been under pressure from taxicab and limousine rental firms to rein in rideshare companies that do not adhere to existing regulations about background checks and insurance.

Rideshare firms argue that those regulations, devised for the taxicab industry, do not apply to them. It is asking an appeals court to overturn fines levied agianst their drivers by PTC inspectors.

Also Tuesday, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce called for statewide regulation, saying it supports "a uniform framework on the regulation of transportation networking companies that protects the consumer while providing competitive and innovative choices."

"The chamber believes that the recent local restrictions that are being recommended are regressive and do not allow for fair competition," the organization said in a news release. "Regulation should not be implemented on a county-by-county basis but should be addressed by the state Legislature and the same for all of Florida's 67 counties."

On Monday, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn called the PTC a dinosaur and its proposed new rules draconian. He was joined by local business leaders who said losing ridesharing would affect Tampa's ability to attract new businesses.

Drivers and rideshare customers also are adding their names to an online petition calling on PTC board members to reject the proposed rules.

As of Tuesday morning the petition had received more than 3,300 signatures.