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Under GOP pressure, Broward lawmaker drops rental car fee cap

Motorists angry over being hit with extra fees to cover unpaid highway tolls when they rent cars in Florida won't be getting any help from the Legislature.

A bill that would have capped the fees at $10 a day moved ahead in the House Tuesday, but only after it was amended to eliminate the fee cap. The amended bill was supported by lobbyists for rental car companies.

The bill (HB 1119) is sponsored by Rep. Kristin Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek, who said she filed it to help unsuspecting consumers who rent cars in Florida and are charged from $4 to $15 a day by rental car companies, in addition to the tolls themselves, to cover cases in which renters pass through electronic toll booths where there are no humans to accept money.

Jacobs' bill was likely doomed in the House Transportation & Ports Subcommittee unless she removed the fee limit, so she took it out. "Up here, you know how far that went," Jacobs said. "So I'll take a baby step -- can they just tell us what the fees are?"

Jacobs' amended bill now says that "a rental car company which imposes a fee in additional to the toll charge incurred by the renter ... must post the applicable terms and conditions in a conspicuous location on the business premises" in addition to including the conditions in a rental agreement.

The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, who initially filed his own proposed regulations, but he declared it dead last week.

As a state employee, Jacobs is required to rent from Enterprise and its affiliates, Alamo and National, which hold a multi-year contract with the state. Those firms charge a fee of $3.95 a day for every day a toll is unpaid to cover the costs of unpaid tolls.

Jacobs said she was surprised that the Department of Management Services, which negotiated the contract with Enterprise, did not negotiate a removal of the fees, which will be passed on to Florida taxpayers. "So even on ourselves, we're paying more as a state," Jacobs said. "We could have negotiated that clause away."

Enterprise Holdings and related firms have donated $1.2 million in campaign contributions to legislators and candidates since 1996, most of it to Republicans. Enterprise has given $100,000 to the Republican Party of Florida since 2014.