Senator considers compromise in Uber's fight for low fares
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Uber has gone nuclear. That's what Tallahassee insiders are saying after the ride-sharing giant launched attack ads claiming Senate President Andy Gardiner is blocking a bill that would stop Orlando from forcing Uber to charge its customers as much as taxis do.
The aggressive tactics come after a bill by Rep. Matt Gaetz to strip cities of the power to regulate ride-sharing companies already passed the House.
"Unfortunately, we have not had the same opportunity to make our case in the Florida Senate because of one, termed-out, individual’s cozy relationship with one taxi company in his district," Uber's Colin Tooze said, referring to Orlando's Mears Transportation.
Gaetz agreed that Mears has too much influence in the Senate.
"We can't even get a vote in the Florida Senate on that issue and it's unfortunate because people in Florida want to see the benefits of a shared economy," said Gaetz.
In an exclusive interview, Gardiner told News 6 it's disappointing Uber is resorting to attacking his friendship with Paul Mears III.
"They want pre-emption (of local control). They want very little insurance. They don't want the background checks," Gardiner said. "We just had a situation with an Uber driver in another state that killed six people. I think in the state of Florida we'll be a little bit more cautious about that."
Despite the attack ads, Gardiner left the door open for a deal.
"If there's an agreement to be had by all parties, I hope we can get that done," Gardiner said.
Gardiner made it clear Altamonte Springs Sen. David Simmons is the person in the Senate who could make the deal.
"We want to make sure the law keeps up with technology, but at the same time we want to make sure people of the state of Florida are protected," Simmons said.
Simmons has a bill that would require Uber to have more insurance coverage, but Simmons' bill lacks the total preemption of local government control. Without an agreement between the House and Senate, both bills will die.
News 6 asked Simmons, "Would you consider a compromise so local governments can't set a price on Uber?"
"Absolutely," Simmons responded.
The compromise would still allow cities like Orlando to enact regulations like requiring their own background checks, but it would stop cities from forcing Uber riders to pay more than the company wants to charge.
"There is common ground that can be reached so that we can protect the citizens of the state of Florida," Simmons said.
In finding that common ground, Simmons praised Uber competitor Lyft for continuing to negotiate without using attack ads he said are totally incorrect and "certainly not conducive to getting things solved.”
“We are looking at ways to assure that the people of the state of Florida are protected, while at the same time, we want to help the transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft," Simmons said. "We want them to be adequately insured and effectively compete without much regulation.”
News 6 is working to get reaction from Uber and Lyft to Simmons' offer to consider a compromise that would include limited language in his bill pre-empting the power of cities to control prices.
Check back for updates.
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