Michigan shooting puts emphasis on need for better Uber background checks

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A horrific string of shootings in Michigan this past weekend by an Uber driver could have some impact in Florida. Some are telling lawmakers to take note as they try to craft statewide legislation for the ride sharing service.

Some, but not all, cab companies around the state require fingerprinting for background checks. Uber currently runs name checks. The Michigan shooter had cleared Uber’s current background check system.

If a customer calls Uber, they trust the person picking them up will get them to where they’re going safely. A killing spree in Michigan over the weekend by an Uber driver who allegedly picked people up in between shootings has some people calling for tougher background checks.

"We don't have a problem with Uber being here, but they've gotta play by the same rules," said Ron Book, a taxi company lobbyist.

Book has been calling for the legislature to level the playing field between Uber and cab drivers.

"I think the Michigan shooting just simply puts more exclamation points behind (that) you have to have real background checks, and some notion that that created an employer-employee relationship is hogwash," Book said.

Minimum insurance requirements are driving Uber bills currently moving through the Capitol with minimal emphasis on driver background checks.

The House’s version of the bill already passed the chamber, but some lawmakers tried to amend it to include fingerprint level background checks. The amendment failed.

Sen. David Simmons sponsors an Uber bill in his chamber. He said the shooting emphasizes that protections are needed.

"It's very important to us to assure that there's insurance protection, obviously, and to make sure that there is protection for riders and their safety from the drivers," Simmons said.

Simmons' bill currently doesn’t overrule local regulations placed on Uber. That means a local government could require a stronger level of background checks.  The House’s version preempts local rules and creates uniform regulations statewide.

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