This morning, September 22, 2015, the Palm Beach County Commission was scheduled to vote on the future of ridesharing apps Lyft and Uber in Palm Beach County. Instead, the Commission decided to hold off on any final decisions until the Florida legislature handles the issue statewide during their upcoming 2016 session. For Palm Beach County, Lyft and Uber will continue operating as they are currently until and when the Florida legislature passes statewide regulations on ridesharing companies. Uber operates under a temporary operating agreement with the Palm Beach County government which is technically what Palm Beach County Commissioners voted to extend.
This morning, Commissioner Steve Abrams suggested to delay the vote as he needed to leave the commission meeting early and Commissioner Priscilla Taylor made the motion. Commissioner Hal Valeche was not able to be present at the meeting is another reason the decision was delayed. As Abrams also noted, much of the public was not have been able to attend today’s meeting due to Yom Kippur.
Item 4A and 5E on today’s agenda would still keep the fee of $10,000 for a new business which is designed to keep small businesses out of the market. Abrams and other commissioners are hopeful to put an end to such onerous regulations and give the public what they want — Lyft and Uber.
It is proposed the county change its vehicle for hire ordinance to continue regulation on Lyft and Uber; however, would not force the ridesharing tech companies or traditional taxi companies under a government-run background check. The proposal would also allow Lyft and Uber to continue to use their current insurance companies which provided $1 million liability insurance while passengers are using their service.
At issue with county commissioners is that commissioners want Lyft and Uber drivers to undergo a government-run background check while Lyft and Uber contend their private, third-party background checks are more comprehensive. Commissioners have repeatedly stated they want the government-run background checks for the safety of the community; however, not one person has come forward to show Lyft or Uber are any less safe than traditional taxi companies. In August, the county commission voted 4-3 to stop the requirement of the government-run background checks and it still needs final approval. Lyft and Uber have not backed down in their quest to operate their businesses in the best interest of their customers.
Over several county commission public hearings on the issue, Uber and Lyft have had hundreds of raving fans show up to speak in support of the ridesharing companies while the traditional taxi companies has had none. “Consumers have overwhelmingly chose Uber over the taxi cab industry to suit their transportation needs and if the taxi can industry must survive, it should make itself more efficient instead of coercing politicians to enforce a prohibition on its competitors” said Palm Beach County Transportation Committee (PBCTC) board member, Marc Tancer. The PBCTC has filed to form a Super PAC with the stated purpose to create “a massive grassroots campaign against any commissioner choosing to over-regulate and ban Uber from operating within our County.” Tancer concluded, “Let it be known that we strongly support Uber and other ride-sharing companies and believe a solution can be made between consumers and the county commission instead of resorting to failed tactics that have already been used in Broward County.” Tancer is referring to Broward County, where ridesharing companies are temporarily banned from operating. A resolution in Broward is still being worked out so Lyft and Uber can once again operate in Broward County and will likely happen in October.
Last month, the Libertarian Party of Palm Beach County issued a statement on the issue. Apparently commissioners agreed with the Libertarians as commissioners moved in their direction. The local party’s statement read, “While the Palm Beach County Commission suggests the proposed amendments provides flexibility and public safety, the Libertarian Party of Palm Beach County opposes the changes because it limits small companies from entering the vehicles for hire local market. The numerous regulatory requirements, including new FBI background checks, increased insurance requirements and a one-time $10,000 application fee, limits competition resulting in poorer service to our community. The party argues that free markets are a more efficient regulator than bureaucratic red tape.”