With less than three weeks left in the legislative session, Uber is making an aggressive push to get its priority bills across the finish line.
The luxury-car mobile-dispatching service is throwing its considerable heft behind SB 1618 and HB 1389.
Originally, the proposals sought to let companies like Uber to circumvent municipalities and win approval from the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. But the bills were watered down in committee, and now would help Uber only in Hillsborough County.
Still, Uber considers the bills an important first step toward changing the regulatory landscape in Florida. So far, the company has only been able to establish itself Jacksonville. It has met roadblocks in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa.
The company's latest campaign includes an online petition (www.FloridaNeedsUber.com), a Twitter hashtag (#MOVEFLFORWARD) and a new radio ad.
Lending his voice: Miami Heat Forward Udonis Haslem.
In the radio spot, Haslem asks his fellow Floridians "to help to make sure Florida isn’t left standing on the curb while other states pass us by."
"We need choices in Florida, like Uber, that smartphone app where with a push of a button a car shows up to take you wherever you want to go," he says. "You’ve probably seen it used in other states, giving consumers more choices and lower costs, but it’s being blocked here in Florida."
Haslem then makes the pitch for SB 1618 and HB 1389.
Listen to the radio ad here.
The so-called Uber bills will be closely watched in the closing days of the session.
The House version, by Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, survived two close committee votes and is now poised for a hearing on the floor. Its companion in the Senate passed through only one committee, but is still in play.
Expect resistance from taxicab companies, who argue Uber should have to play by the same rules as traditional cabs. Local governments will fight the measure, too, saying they should have the authority to regulate transportation services.