An amendment to a controversial bill took a lot of steam out of its opponents today.
Senate Bill 522, or the vacation rental bill, preempts local regulation of vacation rentals by shifting licensing, tax collection and inspection of vacation rentals from local control to state control under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. It strives to protect vacation rentals on internet platforms like Airbnb and Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) from local laws that vary widely from one community to the next which currently regulate Florida’s vacation communities.
However, the bill was facing heavy opposition from those who believe that local governments are more closely attuned to the needs of its own community and that the State should not be dictating a community’s handling of vacation property.
The amendment, introduced Thursday during the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting, addressed some of those concerns. It would allow current local laws governing vacation rentals to remain, but allow them to be modified to be less restrictive in the future if a locality chooses to do so. Under the amended legislation, local governments would still regulate activities arising from the property’s use as a vacation rental, the same way as any residential property. Those issues wouldinclude noise complaints, parking and trash.
The sponsor of the bill, Senator Manny Diaz (R-District 36) worked closely with several of his colleagues who initially opposed the legislation to develop the amendment.
Following the committee’s approval of the amendment, the bill passed through the Senate Appropriation Committee, with a 13-5 vote.
He said in a statement to The Capitolist, “My goal with the proposed legislation has always been about cutting red tape. Seeking to bring consistency, SB 522 would give Florida control over the licensing, regulation and inspection of short-term vacation rentals. We are happy to continue to work to make this bill better and get to a place where we can find agreement amongst all stakeholders.”
Senator Ed Hooper (R-District 16), who voted against the bill as presented earlier in the Regulated Industries committee, indicated support of the amended legislation. He said,
“I think it makes the bill better. And the fact that it does no further harm to my communities gives me great comfort.”
But Minority Leader Senator Gary Farmer (D-District 34), remained a hard, “no.”
He said, “I think when you purchase a home in a single-family residential neighborhood you have an expectation of solitude and peace and tranquility. I don’t care when a regulation was put in place at the local level, I just don’t think we overturn what local communities are wanting to do. They should have full control over this issue.”
Senator Jason Pizzo (D-District 38), who has offered an alternative vacation rental bill (SB 1988), was not on board either, saying he would discuss his concerns with the bill in a meeting with Diaz later.
Diaz’s bill heads next to the Senate Rules Committee, its final stop before the Senate floor. The bill’s companion, House Bill 219, is in the Ways and Means committee.