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Rideshare bill picks up speed in Senate

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After stalling in previous years, statewide regulations for ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft appear to be on a roll.

The Senate Judiciary Committee spent just 10 minutes Tuesday before signing off on a proposal (SB 340) backed by the "transportation network companies."

A companion version of the measure (HB 221) is slated for House floor debate Wednesday.

The House has pushed similar bills over the past two years, but the heavily lobbied issue --- which pitted Uber and Lyft against taxicab companies and local governments --- got bottled up in the Senate, where former President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, wanted to more narrowly address issues such as insurance requirements for ridesharing drivers.

This year's Senate proposal, which still must get through the Rules Committee, would set insurance and background-check requirements that would override existing local regulations.

Cities and counties have a long history of regulating taxi operators, and groups including the Florida League of Cities oppose the changes.

Former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, lobbying on behalf of the Florida Taxicab Association, cautioned the committee that the proposal would tie the hands of local governments.

“We currently have a problem in Broward County where there are an exorbitant number of cars that are circling the airport and the seaport, and the local governments will have no opportunity to address those issues,” Bogdanoff said. “Under this particular bill, any of the fees that helped them with the local regulation, or any of problems that may arise from the TNC (transportation network companies) industry and its proliferation, are going to be wiped out under this bill.”

Broward County officials estimate that the number of cars for hire on the road has grown in recent years from 2,400 to 13,000, largely due to ridesharing services.