State lawmakers are responding to the times, attempting to change laws because of ride-booking services like Uber and Lyft. Representatives for Uber and Lyft oppose a bill that would implement new insurance requirements for companies like them at the intersection of technology and transportation. A Senate panel felt differently.“This is simply a case in which we are setting forth minimum requirements relating to insurance so that our laws keep up with technology,” said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, sponsor of SB 1298. The bill would require “liability coverage of at least $1 million for death, bodily injury, and property damage” and other insurance for the time when a ride is taking place. The companies are fighting the provision in the bill that would require drivers for so-called Transportation Network Companies to be insured whenever they’re driving with their phone application running. For those who have not heard about these type of companies, Uber, Lyft and the like employ a fleet of freelance drivers who provide rides to people who request them using an app on their smartphone. Lobbyists for Uber and Lyft say they shouldn’t be responsible for insurance when the app is running but a customer isn’t in the car with the driver. But with support from existing cab companies, the members of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill, which will next be heard in the Judiciary Committee but has not yet been put on the agenda.
Simmons’ bill is one of several this year dealing with ride-sharing services.
♦ A measure (HB 817) backed by state Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, would pre-empt all local regulation of ride-booking services, cutting out local bodies. It was OK’d by one committee already this year and has one to go before it lands on the House floor. Its chances in the more moderate Senate are not as good.
♦ A bill (SB 1326) filed by Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, focuses on safety and would set statewide standards on insurance coverage and background checks. It, too, would require automobile liability insurance for drivers. The bill is set to be heard first by the Senate’s regulated Industries committee. Brandes also would make Uber and Lyft drivers accept only rides booked through an app and ban them from picking up fares off the street.
As one Florida consumer group stated – “These companies insist they are not the same as taxi and limousine companies, and therefore shouldn’t be regulated the same way. But they recruit drivers, they market for passengers who need immediate transportation, they dispatch drivers, and they charge passengers for rides. If that isn’t the same as a taxicab or limousine company, then what is?”