Bills to Legalize Uber and Lyft Filed in Florida Legislature

Ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft continue to operate successfully across Florida despite the fact they're technically doing so illegally in many counties. An attempt last year to legalize the services statewide fizzled out in Tallahassee, but two new bills filed in the state senate and house signal that the legislature is ready to give it another go.

Interestingly the news comes today as Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez noted in his State of the County address that he thinks Uber and Lyft are here to stay despite the county having made no changes to its own laws yet.

"Folks, we're not putting the genie back in the bottle," he said.

SB 1326 was filed yesterday by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg). A companion bill in the house, HB 817, was filed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar).

The bills would create a new class of business in Florida called a "transportation network company," defined as a company that uses "digital network or software application service to connect passengers to TNC services provided by TNC drivers." However, that does not include existing traditional taxi services that may adapt to using apps.

All TNCs would be required to ensure that their drivers have proper insurance, including $1 million in liability coverage.

TNCs also must perform stringent background checks on their drivers. Sex offenders, drivers with a DUI in the past seven years, and drivers with three moving violations or one major violation in the past three years would not be allowed to be hired.

TNC drivers would also not be allowed to pick up passengers who hail them, and the TNC company cannot own cars.

The house bill goes a bit further by preempting any local regulations placed on Uber or Lyft at the municipal level.

The services continue to be illegal in most counties, but the enforcement of those laws varies. After initially going after drivers, Miami-Dade, for example, has basically allowed the services to operate unimpeded -- so much so that a limo company filed a class-action lawsuit against Uber, Lyft, and the county over the situation. Of course, Mayor Gimenez's remarks today indicate that whether these bill make it through the legislature this session, changes to Miami-Dade's laws may be coming sooner than later.

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Kyle Munzenrieder