2016 may have ended, but the year has left its mark on all of us in different ways. Throughout 2016, numerous ordinances and resolutions have been passed in Hillsborough and other areas of Florida—too many to sum them all up here.
However, a few specific laws and resolutions that passed in 2016 have earned a little recognition—and sometimes controversy—that make them worth bringing to your attention.
What are these laws, and what could their impact be to the people of Hillsborough County?
Here are a few highlights from 2016:
1: The End of “Courtesy” Busing for Nearly 7,500 Hillsborough Students
In December of 2016, the Hillsborough County School Board voted 6-1 to end so-called courtesy bus transportation for nearly 7,500 Hillsborough students in middle and high school. The measure eliminates busing provisions for students living within two miles of their school’s location—forcing them to find alternative methods of transportation.
Tampa Bay Online covered the story shortly after the measure passed. In their article, TBO.com interviewed Melissa Snively, the sole member of the school board to oppose the cost-cutting measure, who stated that “I really believe that the risk we are taking here could be detrimental, and it’s not really taking care of our students.”
In the short term, the measure is expected to reduce costs for the county’s school system.
However, the measure may put students at increased risk—Florida already ranks #2 on the list of the 10 Most Dangerous States for Pedestrians according to a 24/7 Wall St. article, and #1 on Time’s 5 Deadliest States for Walkers list. The Time article noted that:
Orlando, Florida topped the list of most hazardous cities with 583 pedestrian deaths and a danger index four times above the national average. Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami came in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th respectively among the most dangerous cities.
Note that these ranks aren’t just for the state of Florida. These four cities are the top risk areas for the ENTIRE country. The statistics cited by the Time article likely came from this carinsurance.com article, which has a chart showing total pedestrian deaths for these cities between 2003 and 2012.
Also, the move to eliminate busing for these students will put the onus of providing transportation on parents. These parents may want to drive their children to school for safety reasons, meaning more parents driving their kids to school means more congestion on roadways surrounding school zones—disrupting morning commutes.
2: Anti-Gas Station Skimmers Law
On the brighter side of things, a State law requiring gas pumps to have some basic security measures to prevent criminals from installing skimmer devices to steal credit card info was recently passed.
SB 912 amends the laws regulating retail petroleum fuel measuring devices (i.e. gas pumps) to require:
- Pressure-sensitive security tape for tamper-evidence
- Devices/systems to render the gas pump inoperable if the unit panel is opened without authorization
- In-scanner encryption devices to protect card information
- Other security measures approved by the State’s department
While not foolproof, these measures should enhance security for consumers at the pump throughout the state.
Gas pump owners/managers who fail to implement these security measures may be prohibited from operating the gas pump again and having the pump sealed by state authorities so it cannot be used. Those caught trafficking in stolen credit cards may face a second or first degree felony charge.
3: Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission Reaches Agreement to Let Uber and Lyft Operate Legally in Hillsborough
A temporary agreement between the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission was reached late in 2016. ABC Action News reported on the agreement, noting that “the temporary operating agreement with Uber and Lyft will remain in place through December 31, 2017.”
In the meantime, both companies will have to meet strict requirements for operating in Hillsborough, including vehicle inspections, antidiscrimination rules, and background checks for drivers.
The hope is that the State’s legislation will pass a more permanent law sometime between now and the end of 2017 which will formally address the rules of operation for the ride-sharing industry.
The impact of this temporary agreement could be a mixed bag. While the increased competition for ride-sharing and taxi services could lead to benefits for the people of Hillsborough, there could be many unforeseen complications arising from the introduction of these new services.
Most traditional taxi services have set protections governing their vehicles, drivers, and passengers to protect the parties involved. Ride-sharing services operate under different rules and regulations; something that could be disadvantageous to both drivers and passengers in one way or another. The requirements of the agreement are designed to help address this issue somewhat.
These are just a few of the changes that affect the Hillsborough County area. Lawmakers are constantly tweaking ordinances and regulations. By keeping up with these changes, you can be better prepared for when a big change is introduced.
Of course, not everyone can keep up with every little rule change—which is why legal firms like Lowman Law are here to help the people of Hillsborough.