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FTA Calls for Consumer Protections in Proposed Ridesharing Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ORLANDO, FL, Jan. 11, 2017 — Lawmakers from the Florida House and Senate will announce today the introduction of legislation related to ridesharing and Transportation Network Companies (TNCs). The Florida Taxicab Association (FTA) is calling for a thorough and comprehensive debate that balances the interests of all stakeholders.

“As an industry, we agree with much of what has been debated in the past related to reducing barriers and regulations for TNCs as well as taxicab companies,” said Roger Chapin, an FTA board member and executive with Mears Transportation in Orlando.  “However, we firmly believe any legislation should also protect passengers, drivers and third parties when it comes to consumer protections such as background checks and insurance.”

 A joint news conference with Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and Representative Chris Sprowls (R-Clearwater) is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 11 at 1 p.m. on the fourth floor of the Capitol Rotunda. Additional press inquiries may be sent to the FTA at FloridaTaxicabAssociation@gmail.com as well as Roger Chapin directly at Rchapin@Mears.com.

After Orlando Sexual Assault and Kidnapping, Association ‘Again’ Calls on Uber and Lyft to Fingerprint Drivers

The Florida Taxicab Association (FTA) has called on Uber and Lyft, again, to immediately implement fingerprinting for drivers as an improved method to screen drivers.

A Lyft driver, who may also be an Uber driver was arrested in Orlando on charges of sexual battery and kidnapping a woman.

This is not the first time drivers for Uber or Lyft have sexually assaulted passengers. In fact another sexual assault by an Uber driver occurred in Orlando just a few months ago, and a growing list of incidents throughout the country has caused some cities and states to implement tougher screening measures for Uber and Lyft drivers. Many of the drivers accused of sexual assault had lengthy criminal records.

“Fingerprinting is the gold standard for background checks,” said Louie Minardi, President of the Florida Taxicab Association. “We also believe that the mere requirement of fingerprinting not only weeds out those who shouldn’t be driving in the first place, but also serves as a deterrent for future bad behavior.”

As if the growing trend of sexual assaults by Uber and Lyft drivers was not enough, an Uber driver in Palm Beach County was recently cited in an accident investigation for not having a valid driver’s license and no insurance.  The officer wrote that a check of the Uber driver “revealed her Florida driver’s license was suspended on May 15, 2014 and was still listed as suspended on the date of the accident. Additionally, an insurance check on the vehicle…determined the insurance was cancelled February 15, 2016.”

“Uber and Lyft are not new or innovative anymore,” said Roger Chapin, an FTA Board Member and Mears executive in Orlando. “It’s high time regulators required standard procedures for background checks and insurance verification for all Uber and Lyft drivers and forced compliance.”

“Uber says ‘trust us’ on background checks,” added Minardi. “Heck, they don’t even know if their own drivers have valid driver’s licenses and insurance! Give me a break!”

Uber vs. Taxi – Influence Florida Political Magazine

The worldwide phenomenon known as ridesharing came to Florida in Orlando in June of 2014, and – as has been the case in virtually every other community around the world – the clash between this dynamic new business model and age-old regulations hasn’t been smooth, to say the least. Uber’s battle with the taxi industry and local governments in Florida has been well noted in recent years, and in July 2015 the company dropped out of Broward County. While the battle between government entities of all sorts and Uber have touched Miami, Orlando, and now Tampa, one thing is for certain, this contentious relationship will not lighten up anytime soon.

View Magazine Article Here: https://issuu.com/influenceflorida/docs/influence_summer-fall2016/c/smtpfh8

Rapes by Uber Drivers on the Rise, Candidate Randolph Bracy Still Opposes Background Checks
Randolph Bracy, candidate for Florida Senate in District 11, voted to allow Uber and other drivers to avoid Level II background checks requiring fingerprint verification. As a member of the Florida House, Bracy has consistently sided with special interests over public safety despite an alarming rise in sexual assaults by Uber drivers and polling that shows overwhelming public support for fingerprint background checks.
Despite numerous instances of sexual assaults by Uber drivers, including women and children, Bracy says requiring drivers to be fingerprinted is a “discriminatory screening requirement for entrepreneurs.” He also ignored the fact many of these drivers would not be on the road in the first place if they were required to pass fingerprint verification by law enforcement.

 

Just this week, prosecutors charged an Uber driver with rape of a 16-year-old female passenger. The driver was operating with an 8-page criminal record including multiple convictions for drug and violent offenses.
Last week, another Uber driver was found to be a Level 2 Sex Offender, convicted of raping a child. The driver admitted he didn’t disclose this fact to Uber. The company said they have “banned” the driver from the platform and is “investigating the matter.”
Last month, in Bracy’s own district of Orlando, police arrested an Uber driver for sexual assault. Uber said in statement, “The allegations are concerning and we’ve been in contact with law enforcement to assist their investigation.”
With the growing number of sexual assaults in Florida and across the country, Uber has been forced to create a “dedicated team who works with law enforcement agencies across the country” to deal with the shear volume of incidents.
Private internal documents from Uber show the potential for several thousand accusations of sexual assaults by their drivers. Violent crimes including battery and sexual assaults, that have been reported to law enforcement and the media, are piling up against Uber drivers in alarming numbers.

Uber argues that mandatory fingerprint-based background checks would “prove a disadvantage to minorities, who are arrested at a disproportionately higher rate.” However, the Florida Taxicab Association discovered the real reason Uber won’t perform fingerprint background checks is there are not enough drivers who would actually pass the background check.

Recently Uber admitted this, writing to regulators in Tampa that if they are required to perform fingerprinting they would not be able to provide “the same access to reliable and affordable transportation services that the public has come to expect because there are not enough drivers available.”
The Florida Taxicab Association calls on Senate candidate Randolph Bracy and all candidates to support common sense public safety measures for Uber drivers, including fingerprinting and background checks that are verifiable by law enforcement. 
 
Candidates should put PUBLIC SAFETY over UBER’S PRIVATE PROFIT.
Uber Refuses to Respond to Grand Jury or Comply with Fingerprint Requirements – Why So Secret?
A female passenger is accusing an Uber driver of being involved in her sexual assault in St. Louis. Uber, as they’ve done in thousands of similar incidents, issued a statement. Like a broken record, they claim to have “fully cooperated with the St. Louis Police Department and will continue to work with them on their investigation.”
Uber also said they have a “dedicated team who works with law enforcement agencies across the country” as it relates to sexual assaults and other crimes involving their drivers.

Which should lead the public to ask two important questions:
  1. Is Uber really “cooperating” with law enforcement?
  2. Why does Uber need a “dedicated team who works with law enforcement agencies across the country”?
The answer to the first question is easy. They are not. In fact, Uber has refused to comply with St. Louis Metropolitan Taxi Commission rules that require drivers be fingerprinted for background checks. In Austin, instead of complying with fingerprint background checks, Uber left town. In cities throughout Florida, Uber continues to violate laws related to simple and inexpensive background checks.

According to the St. Louis Police Department, Uber is dragging their feet with the investigation. “On July 12, Uber was sent a Grand Jury Subpoena to which they have not yet complied with,” said St. Louis Police Department.

To the second and more serious question, why does Uber need a “dedicated team” to deal with crimes committed by their drivers? It’s because the criminal incidents involving Uber drivers have reached alarming levels. Internal documents from Uber show potentially thousands of accusations of sexual assaults by their drivers. And actual crimes, including sexual assaults, that have been reported to law enforcement and the media are piling up against Uber drivers.

Uber continues to refuse compliance with any law enforcement agency that requires fingerprint background checks. In addition, they have spent millions lobbying against the same public safety requirement in cities and state capitals across the country. And now we have learned Uber has been forced to employ a “dedicated team” to deal with the thousands of criminal accusations against their drivers.

Uber refuses to comply with simple background checks. They refuse to fully cooperate with law enforcement and victims of crimes by their drivers. They have formed a “dedicated team” internally to deal with mounting criminal activity involving their drivers. Which should lead policy makers to ask a few more questions:

Why not comply with fingerprinting? Why not cooperate fully with victims? Why does Uber need a “dedicated team” to deal with complaints?

#WhySoSecretUber?
Uber Spends $8 Million to Defeat Fingerprints in Austin – What Do They Have to Hide?
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
In the ongoing debate over regulations related to public safety, Uber has gone nuclear, spending more than $8 million in a municipal election to pass a proposal to eliminate the City of Austin’s ability to require specific public safety measures for Uber drivers including fingerprinting.
 
“Considering the cost to perform fingerprint scans is about 25 bucks, Uber and Lyft could have registered and performed background checks on 320,000 drivers across the country instead of a smear campaign in Austin,” said Louie Minardi, President of the Florida Taxicab Association.  “Makes you wonder what they have to hide?”
 
Uber has long contended that their background checks are “good enough,” despite incident after incident showing drivers slipping through the cracks of their background check system and Uber drivers committing unthinkable crimes against the public including sexual assaults, kidnapping and battery.
 
Just as policy makers are finally realizing the general public overwhelmingly supports public safety requirements, including fingerprint background checks for Uber drivers, Uber will stop at nothing to achieve their agenda of zero safety regulations for their drivers.
 
“Spending $8 million in one city is not about Austin alone,” said Roger Chapin, a public affairs executive in Orlando.  “It’s a message to any elected official, mayor, judge or law enforcement officer.  Do what we want or we will bury you next.”
  
The election in Austin is May 7th.  For more information on how to combat Uber’s $8 million campaign, visit https://www.ourcityoursafetyourchoice.org.
Career Criminal Uber Driver Pulls Gun on Orlando Passenger
An Uber driver in Orlando was accused of pulling a gun on a passenger, according to police reports and complaints filed with Uber by the Uber passenger two days ago.
Equally alarming is the fact that the Uber driver also has a lengthy arrest record, including serving 30 months in prison for Grand Theft and Burglary, as well as an arrest associated with knowingly driving with a suspended driver’s license in November 2014.
The driver also has extensive motor vehicle violations including moving violations, failure to appear, expired tag and no proof of insurance.
This report comes on the heels of an alarming trend of sexual assaults by Uber drivers on passengers and revelations of Uber support representatives ignoring complaints unless the media was involved.
Uber has also come under fire for their driving screening process, including paying $29 million for a lawsuit related to claims about the effectiveness of their background checks, which one state prosecutor called “completely worthless”.
The Florida Taxicab Association calls on Uber to re-verify every driver in their system and come clean with regulators, lawmakers, police and the public about the lack of effectiveness of their driver screening policies and adopt Level II fingerprint verification for all driver background checks.
Uber Letter2Uber Letter
As Accidents and Assaults Pile Up, Sen. Brandes Pulls ‘End Around’ for Uber

 

To say that Florida Senator Jeff Brandes has been a champion for Uber would be an under-statement.  The Senator has pushed “model legislation,” written by Uber, as a solution for any regulatory impediment the company may encounter in Florida now or in the future.

 

Uber’s “model legislation,” which passed the House earlier this session (HB 509), lets them off the hook from a number of regulatory measures that traditional taxi and other vehicle-for-hire operators have complied with for decades.

 

For example, Uber’s bill would prohibit any regulator, law enforcement officer, city or county from requiring fingerprints of any Uber driver for criminal background checks.  The bill sets lower limits for insurance for the app companies when they are not carrying passengers, which also happens to be the time most accidents occur.  It gives Uber a pass on ADA laws and requires a whopping $5,000 license for Uber to operate throughout the entire State of Florida, when taxi companies are paying millions in taxes, fees and licenses to state and local governments.

 

Fortunately, in the Senate, Rules Chairman David Simmons has worked with all parties involved, including taxi companies, transportation network companies (TNCs), the insurance industry and legal community, to reach consensus on the subject of how best to regulate TNCs.  The result is a bill that closes the “insurance doughnut hole” for TNC drivers, requires insurance levels to protect the traveling public and provides some “limited preemption” or regulatory relief for companies like Uber and LYFT.

 

But Uber will accept no compromise nor offer any concessions, short of passing their own “model bill” that is stuck in legislative limbo.  While the bill passed the House, Senator Brandes and Uber failed to even offer a companion bill in the Senate, rendering the House bill effectively dead on arrival in the Senate.  Faced with the prospect that Uber’s “model legislation” might not pass, Senator Brandes has gone from “Champion” to “Panderer.”

 

As soon as Senator Simmons introduced his compromise legislation, a bill that required weeks of meetings and concessions from all parties, Brandes introduced a “strike all” amendment to effectively replace the Senate bill with the House bill.

 

This is not the first time Sen. Brandes has done Uber’s bidding.  Late last week, when nobody was watching, Senator Brandes tried to slip in an amendment to an unrelated highway safety bill.  The amendment by Brandes would have removed Uber from the definition of “for-hire” vehicles, made Uber exempt from any future regulations and ensured Uber never had to purchase commercial insurance.  Fortunately, that amendment didn’t pass.

 

The Florida Taxicab Association (FTA) has consistently supported common sense regulations and insurance for Uber, Lyft and all Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) to ensure there is coverage that matches the risk associated with providing vehicle-for-hire services to the public, including 24/7 commercial insurance and fingerprint-verified criminal background checks.

 

The FTA, Uber, Lyft, insurance companies, the trial bar and Senator David Simmons negotiated on a framework for regulations of TNCs.  Senator Brandes’ Uber amendment is a just an “end around” on the process, undermining the committee meetings and negotiations that have taken place for months.

 

The FTA calls on Senator Brandes to drop his special amendment for Uber and respect the legislative process.

 

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