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Lawmakers back off using budget as shield for Uber

By Jeremy Wallace

An effort to block cities and counties from enacting new ordinances aimed at ride sharing services like Uber did not last long during the Legislature’s special session.

Just about 20 hours after Republican leaders in the Senate proposed a 10-month moratorium on new ride sharing restrictions, the idea was pulled after objections from Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner.

The Tampa Democrat said she objected to the “creative way” Senate Republicans tried to slip the moratorium through “a back door” by attaching it to a budget dealing with civil and criminal justice appropriations on Monday night under the guise that riding sharing programs might reduce incidences of drunk driving. Joyner said there is no such data to prove that and says it was just a way to get it slipped into a seemingly unrelated portion of the state budget discussions.

“This was not the appropriate way to do this,” Joyner said.

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, the Senate’s Justice Appropriations chairman, initially included the item in the budget, saying it was an idea Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, had brought to him. Negron’s proposal would have committed $10,000 for the state to study the impact of ride sharing programs and whether they reduce drunk driving. While that study was being conducting, local government would have been barred from enacting new ordinances regarding ride sharing.

Joyner said a similar idea was proposed in the regular session that ended in April, and it failed to pass. She said if it is going to come back again, it needs to be subject to a full debate and not through a backdoor mechanism in the budget.

Local governments throughout Florida have fought against Uber in Florida by trying to impose rules and regulations treating them like taxicab services. Joyner said it is a safety issue to assure riders are in vehicles with proper insurance and drivers with thorough background checks.