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Uber's Return to Broward Put on Hold for Now

After debating the state of Uber in Broward County for seven hours Thursday, commissioners couldn't come to a definitive agreement on a new set of regulations for the ride-sharing company and postponed a final vote for next month.

Taxi cab company and Uber reps as well as drivers attended the meeting to state their case over new, more lax laws that would allow Uber to return to the county.

Earlier this month, commissioners agreed to discuss allowing Uber to operate under a Level I background check, as opposed to Level II, which would require their background checks to be fingerprint-based and would have to go through the county first.

Uber has been at odds with Broward officials, as well as Palm Beach, since the company began to make threats that it would leave town if the counties pushed through regulatory measures. In July, Uber made good on its threat and left town. The outcry from the public was such that it forced commissioners to revisit their regulations, and now Uber is one vote closer to operating once again in Broward County.
But implementing the new law hit a snag Thursday night as commissioners debated over specifics. 

Along with the background-check issue, the county couldn't agree on how to handle part of the law that says Uber can't hire felons released from prison in the past seven years. 

With the debate going on all night, commissioners agreed to postpone the vote until October 13.

Still, opponents of Uber are not happy and are calling on commissioners not to give in to Uber's demands.

“Broward County is caving to Uber’s demands by pointing to consumer demand. Protecting public safety involves considering the entire community — not just consumers," Dave Sutton, a spokesman who represents taxi and limousine firms, tells New Times.

"The people killed by Uber vehicles have been pedestrians — not customers," added Sutton, who authored a public safety campaign on behalf of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association titled Who’s Driving You? 

During the meeting, Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief echoed those sentiments, telling Uber drivers in attendance, "I hate to tell you, but you can be personally sued, and you can be liable for that, and that is what the County Commission is trying to prevent."

Uber has long said that the regulations imposed on it would cripple the way the ride-sharing company conducts business in a community that has embraced it.

"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.

At least one commissioner, Stacy Ritter, expressed her concern that the lack of agreement on a specific provision may have all but killed chances of Uber's ever returning to the county. Ritter took to Twitter during the meeting to express those concerns. 

The amendment in question is a removal of Uber being required to have vehicles inspected by county-approved mechanics, along with vehicles that are six years or older to be inspected twice a year. Uber also wants to not be prohibited from hiring ex-convicts released from prison in the past seven years. Ritter, along with Martin Kiar, Mark Bogen, and Chop LaMarca, voted to remove the prohibition but fell one vote short of the majority, according to the Sun Sentinel.

The idea behind the county's original regulations was to require local, state, and national criminal records of anyone applying for an Uber or Lyft driver job. This includes fingerprinting background checks and having the county itself handle them. Uber already has its own method of conducting background checks and inspections and says the original proposed rules would create more hurdles to get the service out to customers. The taxi industry, meanwhile, has argued that it is heavily regulated and says giving Uber what it wants would make the playing field uneven.

As part of the new, more lax measure, the commissioners are asking Uber to pay a percentage of its revenue to the county from fares made at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Port Everglades, which is a rule the county holds taxi and limo services to.

Meanwhile, cab-company representatives are threatening to pursue legal action if Uber is allowed to operate in Broward under the new lax laws.
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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph

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