Broward County Commissioners are set to return to looking into re-working regulations for Uber and other ride-sharing companies to be able to run legally in the county. Last month, commissioners couldn't agree on language in the reworked regulation, and agreed to revisit the issue for another attempt at a vote today.
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, which angered many Broward residents who rely on the ride-sharing app to get around town, and prefer it over hailing cabs.
At issue has been whether or not to allow 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. Commissioners have discussed how to handle part of the regulation that says Uber can't hire felons released from prison in the past seven years.
“One of the sticking points in Uber’s recent negotiations with Broward was preventing ex-convicts released from prison during the past seven years from driving," Rebecca Walls, spokesperson for 'Who's Driving You?', a public safety initiative of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association, tells New Times. "This common sense request by Broward reveals a key flaw concerning Uber’s private background checks. According to district attorneys in California who are suing Uber, Uber’s private background checks cannot gather information regarding the date an offender was released from prison or parole. In contrast, law enforcement databases can and do access this information.”
The commissioners' original regulations, and the cause of the rift between company and county, was to require local, state, and national criminal records of anyone applying for an Uber or other ride-sharing 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.
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.
The new amendments to the ordinance is Uber not 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. Last month, commissioner Stacy Ritter, along with Martin Kiar, Mark Bogen, and Chop LaMarca, voted to remove the prohibition but fell one vote short of the majority.