A lawsuit that challenges the controversial $50 minimum fare rule for every limo and luxury sedan ride in Hillsborough County will move forward.
The Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice filed the suit against the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission in August in Hillsborough County Circuit Court. The institute contends the commission's $50 rule for non-metered vehicles is an example of “burdensome regulations and restrictions not common in other places.” The institute also says the rule violates the Florida Constitution's protections for entrepreneurs and consumers.
Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge Charles Bergmann denied the PTC's motion to dismiss the lawsuit in a Dec. 9 ruling. Institute for Justice officials say a final judgment in the case could now come sometime next year.
“Consumers and entrepreneurs — not the government—should decide how much a ride from a car service should cost,” Institute for Justice attorney Ari Bargil says in a statement. “Consumers need the government protecting them from affordable prices as much as they need a government agency protecting them from pillows that are too soft.”
But Rob Brazel, an attorney with the Hillsborough County Attorney's office, which argued the case on behalf of the PTC, says the commission merely does what the Legislature requires it to do: regulate prices on all vehicles for hire, from taxis to tow trucks. The Legislature created the PTC in 1976. “This type of regulation has been upheld in other parts of the country,” Brazel tells Coffee Talk.
And, despite the lawsuit ruling, the news isn't all bad for the Hillsborough PTC, the only one of its kind in Florida. The commission, in fact, was the subject of a recent bill that would have left its fate up to Hillsborough County voters. But that potential bill, a referendum on whether the PTC should be abolished, proposed by Florida State Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa and State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, died earlier this month. The Hillsborough County local delegation, worried about what would replace the PTC, voted to deny the Brandes/Grant proposal.
Brandes and Grant aren't giving up, though. They now intend to propose a law that would ban anti-competitive transportation regulations statewide, not just a referendum on only the Hillsborough PTC.