Collier BCC deregulates car-for-hire industry

Posted at 6:57 PM, Dec 08, 2015

It's official: the vehicle-for-hire industry in Collier County has been deregulated. Commissioners voted 4-1 to rescind its ordinance that required hack licenses and background checks for hired drivers.

Almost three dozen public speakers addressed the board at Tuesday's Collier County Commission meeting - most of them urging the board to strike down the long-standing ordinance.

"As government increases regulations, competition is eliminated and consumer prices increase," Uber driver Jim Kelly told the five board members.

But some in the car-for-hire industry said the ordinance should stay.

"When you get in the backseat of a vehicle for hire, you're trusting that driver to deliver you safely to your destination," Randy Smith of Naples Transportation told the board. "This was the whole reason the vehicle-for-hire ordinance was put in place in Collier County and all across the United States."

Most commissioners felt it was time for a change in direction. Board chairman Tim Nance said the county can't do background checks on everyone who deals with the public.

"Who's doing a criminal background check on people that come to people's homes to provide services?" he asked. "The answer is, nobody." 

Commissioner Penny Taylor sided with the cab industry.

"We have a responsibility for public safety, and I do believe deregulating this industry is abdicating that responsibility," Taylor said.

But she was alone on the board in that opinion, and a vote to deregulate the car-for-hire business in Collier passed 4-to-1.

"A 4-to-1 decision really sends a strong message, not only to the community, but to individuals at large that Collier County's open for business, that we're not going to restrict our new businesses in this county," said Jared Grifoni of the Collier County Libertarian Party, which spearheaded the movement to deregulate Uber.

Many cab drivers left the meeting frustrated by the vote.

"This is crazy," said Peter Francois of TurboCab. "I don't understand. Why did we have to jump through all these hoops?"