The Florida Legislature seems prepared to make another run at setting standards for drivers with online ride-sharing firms like Uber and Lyft.
Monroe County commissioners, meeting today at the Marathon Government Center, likely will have the last chance to adopt their own rules before state lawmakers convene for the annual session, starting in March.
County Attorney Bob Shillinger, in asking commissioners for direction, advises if the unincorporated county chooses not to create its own vehicle-for-hire rules, “the Legislature might preempt the county from enacting similar regulations in the future.”
Currently, the unincorporated county does not regulate taxi companies or “transportation network companies” like Uber and Lyft. Key West does have strict limits on taxis and for-hire vehicles. Islamorada does not, and Marathon has a relatively loose set of regulations.
County commissioners at their December meeting did not voice much support for regulating Uber and Lyft, beyond requiring that each of the independent drivers working with the online dispatch services obtain a Monroe County business license.
That license costs $22 annually, Tax Collector Danise Henriquez said Tuesday.
“As it stands now, a person can come in and be treated as a taxi operator for the unincorporated county,” Henriquez said.
Uber drivers from Miami who come to the Keys on weekends — a situation that irks local taxi-cab operators and drivers — must have a Monroe County license if working in the Keys, even part-time, Henriquez said. “If they don’t, they can be turned in to code enforcement,” she added.
She noted that Lee County in mid-2015 adopted rules covering drivers with the ride-sharing firms, requiring licenses, background checks and commercial insurance. Last November, reporters with NBC 2 in Fort Myers found that enforcement of Lee County’s rules was minimal by most agencies.
Uber, the largest ride-sharing firm, says it provides insurance and background checks for its registered drivers.
The News Service of Florida reported last week that ride-sharing advocates in the Florida Legislature are preparing new bills for the 2017 session.
“At the end of the day, tourists expect this type of access, business travelers demand these services, and frankly Floridians deserve it," Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) told reporter Jim Turner.
In previous years, state senators have sidetracked the ride-sharing bills because of liability questions for drivers and a reluctance to override local regulations.
Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206