After nearly three hours of debating and hearing from both Uber and the cab industry, Palm Beach County commissioners voted to not regulate the ride-sharing company when it comes to fingerprint-based background checks, and are likely going to deregulate the entire industry — including taxi cabs. According to various reports, fingerprinting for background checks will be voluntary not only for Uber, but for the cab industry as well. Uber will continue to run background checks as it always has, but based on its own rules.
Commissioners were hoping to avoid having Uber suspend its operations in the county, as it did with Broward County last month, and went into an extended debate over whether or not the company should abide by an ordinance that would have required fingerprinted background checks, and insurance standards that extended to 24 hours a day, rather than just during the duration of a fare.
In the end, the commissioners voted 4-3 not to regulate Uber.
Commissioners Paulette Burdick, Melissa McKinlay, and Shelley Vana voting for regulations, while commissioners Steven Abrams, Lou Berger, Priscilla Taylor, and Hal Valeche voting against implementing regulations on Uber.
Abrams and Berger both expressed that the public's outcry for Uber influenced them to vote against regulating the company.
"I'm going with let the people choose," Berger said.— Wayne Washington (@waynewashpbpost) August 18, 2015
Meanwhile, Vana called not regulating the industry a return to the "wild west."
Vana: we are going back to Wild Wild West. Abrams: not a deregulation because still rules. Both agreed that lessening rules. #Uber PBC— Jenn Strathman WPTV (@JennStrathman) August 18, 2015
Finger-printing as part of background checks for drivers is now voluntary for Uber drivers and cab drivers— Wayne Washington (@waynewashpbpost) August 18, 2015
Commission will come back in Sept. to vote on new ordinance to loosen rules for everyone. Taxis upset. Feel public safety at risk. #Uber— Jenn Strathman WPTV (@JennStrathman) August 18, 2015
Prior to the meeting, Uber had already said it would leave the county if regulations were forced upon them.
"Uber will not be able to continue operations if the proposed ordinance in Palm Beach County is fully implemented as written," Uber spokesman Bill Gibbons said on Monday.
In July, Uber said they were leaving Broward County if commissioners there went ahead and imposed regulations. The county did, and Uber made good on its promise to bolt. Commissioners were forced to re-visit the issue after public outcry, and agreed to look into relaxing on their regulations to get Uber to return.
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"The ordinance is very detrimental to our ability to continue providing safe, reliable rides and economic opportunity the residents of Broward County have come to expect," Uber spokesperson Kaitlin Durkosh told New Times in April.
According to the Palm Beach Post, there are still other details that the county will need to iron out with its decision. Commissioners still have time, as the county-mandated "temporary operating agreement" expires at the end of September.
For now, the commissioners have agreed to have fingerprint backgrounds eliminated for both Uber and the cab industry, and are giving both the option to have the county perform background checks for them. Additionally, Uber drivers will not have to get commercial insurance, though they still need to comply with state and local insurance laws.
The meeting to iron out the details will likely fall on Tuesday, September 22.