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Could Ride-Sharing Bill Cruise Through Florida Legislature?

House and Senate Republicans say this is the year Florida joins 37 other states in adopting regulations for so-called transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft.

Saint Petersburg Senator Jeff Brandes and Palm Harbor Representative Chris Sprowls looked confident at a recent Statehouse press conference, surrounded by industry lobbyists. When a ride share bill died last year, all fingers pointed at former Senate President Andy Gardiner and his friendship with a Central Florida taxi-cab company owner.

But Gardiner has termed out, and Brandes said now is the time for the bill. “Well, I think we have a new Senate. We have new faces, new visions, and this year,” said Brandes, “we have a Senate that is very focused on this issue.”

Sponsors say the bill protects consumers with things like background checks for drivers and minimum thresholds for insurance. At the same time, it gives companies like Uber and Lyft what they want most, a preemption clause barring local regulations.

Florida Taxi Cab Association lobbyist Ellyn Bogdanoff, a former legislator, insists local governments need to tailor rules to local markets. “Transportation, historically has been a local issue. And what happens in say, Fort Lauderdale, Broward County, is not necessarily good for Bay County,” said Bodganoff.

Bogdanoff acknowledges that she faces an uphill battle. Most of the 20 new senators are coming from the House, which strongly supported the bill last year.

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