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Limo business to stay all local
Local lawmakers alter a bill that would have opened the trade to out-of-state drivers.
By BILL VARIAN, Times Staff Writer
Published December 8, 2007
TAMPA - Fat cats hoping to ride a limo to parties during the 2009 Super Bowl week will need to hire a driver with a Florida license.
Members of Hillsborough County's legislative delegation spiked language from a bill Friday that would have eased the restriction.
The vote came as the lawmakers held their annual public hearing on local bills. They also moved to give county government more seats on three key governmental boards.
The limo bill was requested by the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, which regulates cars for hire. The PTC's goal was to ensure there are enough chauffeurs to handle large tourist events.
The PTC recognized that the National Football League contracts with an out-of-state limo service for VIPs. Members wanted to let non-Florida drivers get temporary chauffeur's licenses.
But local operators complained that this could invite a flood of competition and leave them riderless during a busy week when they should have plenty of work.
"If you let those huge companies come in during the Super Bowl, I have no business," said Moshe Leib, who owns a four-car limo service.
So the locals held sway.
The lawmakers did advance a bill to require national criminal background checks on drivers of certain cars for hire. Now only Florida background checks are required.
Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, withdrew a bill that would have changed the makeup of the county's Environmental Protection Commission.
Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern had been pushing to give Hillsborough County's three cities - Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace - spots on the EPC.
Currently, county commissioners serve as the EPC board of directors.
"It's a local issue," Glorioso said Friday of his change of heart over it. "I don't think we should be refereeing the disagreements between the cities and the county."
Still alive, however, is a competing bill filed by Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Lutz, that would change the makeup of not only the EPC, but of the Tampa Sports Authority and the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission.
While it would add city seats to the EPC, it also would award representation based on population, which overall would give the county government more power.
Ambler had previously indicated he would take the Planning Commission out of the mix while a state study of the agency is conducted, but he backed away from that pledge Friday.
That drew protests from Mulhern and other growth-management advocates.
Ambler also had to waive delegation voting rules in order to get enough votes to move his bill to the full legislature.
"You are changing the rules of the game in the middle of the game, and actually in the middle of this meeting," said Mulhern, whose own proposal had actually helped spawn Ambler's bill, a version of which was killed last year. "I have to say this has been interesting."
In a compromise, Ambler agreed to make the legislation effective in 2009, leaving time for public meetings and revision.
He said the proposal was simply meant to reflect today's demographic realities, and the disproportionate financial burden the county has in underwriting those agencies.
"This is not like China and the United States sitting at the table and having votes with divergent purposes," Ambler said. "We're all on the same team."
Most of the other bills before the delegation were either tabled or withdrawn.