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House lawyer: Yes, Uber-driving Rep. Ritch Workman can vote on ridesharing bills


Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, wants answers about whether his side job as an Uber driver could conflict with his work as a legislator.

On Tuesday, his answer came: It's okay for him to vote on legislation regulating ridesharing companies.

The next day, he did.

Workman was one of 108 House members who on Wednesday approved legislation (HB 509) to prevent local governments from banning ridesharing companies like Uber.

Before he cast that vote, he asked General Counsel Matthew Carson if it would be a conflict of interest. It's not, because the bill affects thousands of drivers for ridesharing companies across the state, not just Driver-for-Hire/Rules Chairman Workman.

"In an abundance of caution, I wanted to make sure I was following state law and House rules in participating in voting on a bill that would directly affect one of my employers," Workman said.

He started driving for the company last August when he has off time in Tallahassee. It's not his main source of income -- he works for Keiser University -- but it does raise one of the big questions that looms over Florida's part-time Legislature every year: How do you balance being citizen-lawmakers who have jobs outside the Capitol with preventing people from gaming the process for their own benefit?

"We have to be able to allow part-time legislators to participate in the process," Workman said. "Otherwise, we're just going to have a bunch of millionaires."

And while lots of lawmakers are millionaires, others are teachers, prosecutors, realtors and executives of non-profits.

They don't all ask for or even need declarations from House and Senate lawyers. Then again, they're not all dealing with legislation where special interests have debated with as much ferocity as the ridesharing bill.