TALLAHASSEE -- Florida senators are poised to consider two plans to regulate ridesharing companies before the legislative session comes to a close Friday.
Two plans are emerging to require insurance and background checks for drivers with companies like Lyft and Uber. They would also allow those companies to exist across the state.
One, by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, would allow local governments to regulate the companies beyond minimum insurance standards set by the state.
The Simmons plan -- backed by taxicab companies -- moves closer to what companies like Uber and Lyft have been asking for, but it is still a far cry from the complete preemption of local government bans and regulation that they have been fighting for.
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Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, has offered an alternative, which is the same as a bill that already passed the Florida House. It would set insurance rules but would stop local governments from banning or creating additional regulations.
Simmons and Brandes filed their proposals late Wednesday, indicating that the bill (SB 1118) could be taken up Thursday after being delayed on the Senate calendar for the last week. If President Andy Gardiner decides to consider the bill, a vote would likely occur Friday.
The House, Senate, taxi companies and ridesharing companies reaching an agreement, would settle an issue that has flared across the state as local governments -- including Hillsborough, Miami-Dade and Broward counties -- have instituted restrictions or outright bans on for-hire vehicles other than taxis.
Public transportation regulators in Hillsborough County voted Wednesday to resume ticketing of Uber and Lyft tDrivers and to reopen legal action against the companies.
All sides have turned to Tallahassee to fight the battle. Uber is paying at least 30 lobbyists this year while Lyft recently recruited former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum as an advocate and taxi companies have hired more than a dozen lobbyists.
Insurance companies have been entrenched in the debate, too, as any plan coming out of the Legislature is likely to allow them to create new insurance plans with high limits for ridesharing drivers.