TAMPA — Two state lawmakers have filed a bill to eliminate Hillsborough County’s Public Transportation Commission, which regulates vehicles for hire such as taxis and tow trucks.
State Rep. Jamie Grant of Tampa and Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, both Republicans, said in a news release today that the agency is a barrier to competition and innovation in public transportation.
“The Public Transportation Commission has evolved from an agency designed to preserve public safety into an agency that is preventing competition in the market and restricting consumer choice,” Grant said.
If the Legislature passes the bill and the governor signs it, Hillsborough voters will get the final say on the agency’s future in a referendum.
The PTC was created by the Legislature in 1976 to regulate ambulances, taxis, wreckers and limousines. Defenders of the agency said it ensures vehicles are safe and drivers are trustworthy.
But in recent years, the agency has drawn more attention for missteps and misbehavior by its top officials. Earlier this year, the executive director was forced out after it was revealed he was moonlighting on county time when records showed he was at work or out sick.
And former County Commissioner Kevin White, who chaired the agency’s governing board, is serving a prison term for accepting bribes in return for trying to get a towing service added to a rotation used by law enforcement.
But what spurred Grant and Brandes to act was the decision by the global rapid-response car company Uber to offer service in Jacksonville instead of Tampa. Uber officials say they turned away from Tampa because of a $50-per-ride minimum charge imposed by the PTC for limousines and other high-end cars for hire. The minimum charge does not apply to taxis.
“I have come to believe that the PTC is no longer serving the needs of our community and is placing burdensome restrictions on small businesses that seek to provide transportation options in our region,” Brandes said in the news release. “The transportation marketplace is rapidly changing and the antiquated institution of the PTC is not suited for the dynamic opportunities which lie ahead.”
Brandes is chairman of the Senate Trqansportation Committee.
The bill will be discussed at the annual meeting of the local legislative delegation in December.