Florida’s future lies in its continued commitment to work with dynamic companies to encourage their innovative ideas, cutting-edge technology, and vision for a better future. We must foster this private-sector growth with paralleled public-sector support.
If Florida is to continue to attract the next great idea and an educated and creative workforce, it must solidify, through legislation and strategic partnerships, an ecosystem that supports companies defining their own path. That vision of civic engagement has defined our state throughout its modern history, and must also be the beacon that lights the path ahead.
Take, for example, Walt Disney World, which started as a parcel of undeveloped land and one man’s incredible vision and is now the most visited destination in the world, attracting more than 52 million visitors annually. Similarly, Moffitt Cancer Center started with the vision of one man decades ago and is now the highest ranked cancer center in the Southeast.
Both of these Florida institutions have two things in common — the indelible determination of their founders, and the strategic support of the state. Rather than stifle the dreams of Mr. Disney and Mr. Moffitt through unnecessary regulatory obstacles, the state chose to actively engage and help bring their inspiring visions to fruition.
And once again, Florida is faced with such a choice in the new ridesharing arena. Last year alone, Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing companies provided millions of trips for Florida residents and visitors. It is clear that Floridians enjoy these services and support their growth. However, in some Florida communities, small but powerful special interests are fighting innovation, choosing to create a path of obstacles rather than a strategic partnership with the state that fosters growth.
The latest example of this short-sighted approach is in Hillsborough County, where the Public Transportation Commission will soon consider increased local regulations that threaten consumer choice. These regulations are not aimed at increasing the safety of our citizens or creating fairness in the industry as many would have you believe; rather, they are designed to stifle innovation and attempt to fit a new and disruptive approach to transportation into an archaic set of regulations and a framework that simply does not fit.
There is a bigger issue at stake here, and that is how Florida — all of Florida — will embrace the innovation embodied by these companies. It is clear that we must establish a single, unified approach to welcoming ridesharing and other groundbreaking services so our residents and guests know what they can expect as they travel from one community to another.
When local officials in Hillsborough County look to adopt one set of regulations and those in Miami approve another set, while those in Orlando enact yet another, we create a patchwork quilt of regulatory schemes that confuses the public and pushes innovative companies away — not just in this industry, but all industries seeking to follow their own path.
As majority leader of the Florida Senate, I am determined that our Legislature will soon enact a single, uniform set of reasonable standards for the ridesharing industry, that both protect our citizens and foster growth for the companies involved. No longer will we have a confusing amalgamation of state and local regulations that hurt competition and ultimately hamper the growth of our state economy and advancing technology.
None of us can predict the next great advancement, but Florida’s longstanding commitment to embracing innovation is what has made us the greatest state in the nation. Local governments have an essential place in our system of government, but this is an instance where they need to stand aside and let the Legislature establish a uniform set of rules for everyone.
Bill Galvano represents state Senate District 26 and serves as the leader of the Senate Republican Caucus. He previously served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2002 to 2010.