Statewide rules for ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft are headed to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature after the Florida Senate approved the measure Wednesday. The Florida House of Representatives approved the bill earlier this month.
“Today we sent a strong message that Florida embraces transportation innovation,” said Senate bill sponsor Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg.) “The future of transportation options includes a focus on shared mobility, and as we move closer to autonomous vehicles on our roadways, the future of ridesharing is very bright. With this legislation, Florida will have a uniform set of standards for the services our businesses demand, our tourists have come to expect, and our residents deserve.”
The bill establishes guidelines for transportation network companies and replaces a patchwork of local regulations that can vary across municipal boundaries. Local regulations have long been a problem in Hillsborough County as the industry’s regulatory arm, the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, struggled to approve guidelines companies agreed upon.
Previously proposed regulations in Hillsborough County threatened to drive Uber and Lyft out of the area. Both companies support rules approved in the legislature.
“The most exciting opportunities are yet to come, as millions of Florida residents and visitors, from Pensacola to Key West, will have permanent access to Uber,” said Colin Tooze, Uber’s public affairs director.
Debate in the past several years has centered on how drivers’ backgrounds should be evaluated. Taxi companies and some elected officials wanted Level 2 background checks that utilized fingerprinting to search crime databases. Uber and Lyft pushed for Level 1 checks that don’t require fingerprinting.
The final version of approved legislation includes the Level 1 with added protections, including checks through local, state and federal databases, a driving history and search in the sex offender registry.
The measure also calls for companies to provide $1 million in auto insurance coverage while a driver is actively transporting a passenger.
“This legislation will provide certainty for the many Floridians who use the convenient and affordable transportation services offered by Lyft,” said Chelsea Harrison, senior policy communications manager for Lyft.
Support for statewide regulations gained steam this year as business leaders joined the fight calling on legislation to make Florida a welcoming place for innovation and attractive to young professionals who demand services like Uber and Lyft.
The measure heads next to Scott’s desk for final approval, which he is expected to grant.