By Joe Hendricks for the Anna Maria Island Sun
ANNA MARIA – City officials continue to lead the opposition to proposed state legislation that would curtail local governments’ ability to regulate short-term vacation rentals.
Senate Bill 714 and House Bill 833 seek to preempt the regulation of vacation rentals to the state, specifically to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).
According to the April 15 staff analysis provided to House of Representatives Commerce Committee members, HB 833 would still allow local governments to create local vacation rental registration programs and charge an annual registration fee, but the fees could not exceed $50 to register a single vacation rental home or unit, or $100 to collectively register vacation rental homes or units.
The proposed legislation would make the regulation of online vacation rental advertising platforms such as Airbnb and Vrbo exclusively the state’s responsibility and take enforcement abilities away from local governments.
The staff analysis notes the proposed legislation would not supersede the authority of condominiums, cooperatives or homeowners’ associations to restrict the use of their properties and prohibit short-term vacation rentals.
On April 12, HB 833 successfully passed through the House Ways & Means Committee by a 13-10 vote. State Rep. Will Robinson Jr. (R-Bradenton) was among the 13 members who voted favorably on the bill.
HB 833 previously successfully reported out of the House’s Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee on March 29.
The bill was scheduled to be discussed and potentially voted on by the House’s Commerce Committee on Monday, April 17, the third and final committee stop for the bill before it can be brought to the floor for a final vote by all House members.
SB 714 was scheduled to be discussed and potentially voted on by the Senate’s Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government Committee on Tuesday, April 18. This is the second of three committee stops scheduled for the Senate bill.
On May 13, SB 714 successfully passed through the Senate’s Regulated Industries Committee by a 5-2 vote.
The proposed legislation dies if it does not successfully pass through three preliminary committees. The 60-day legislative session is scheduled to end on May 5.
Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy provided the city commission with an update on the city’s opposition efforts on April 13, noting the issue is the city’s primary legislative focus this year.
Murphy referenced the emails and letters that continue to be sent to state legislators through the city-owned and managed Home Rule Florida website, http://www.HomeRuleFl.com.
“It’s very impressive the amount of mail that this little city has generated. It didn’t all come out of this city. It comes from across the state because of our website. The lobbyist has assured me our efforts have not gone unnoticed, but we need to keep the pressure on,” Murphy told the commission.
“This thing is sailing through the House and the Senate along party lines. The Democrats are voting no and the Republicans are all voting yes. If it sails through along party lines, which it very well might do, it’ll then go to the governor’s desk for signature. If the governor sees that we already have all these letters, he’s going to think twice before he would sign off on it knowing there’s mass opposition amongst the public,” Murphy said.
Murphy said it’s premature to start lobbying Gov. Ron DeSantis before the proposed legislation reaches his desk.
“The governor’s not going to interfere in the legislative process,” Murphy said. “We need to save our thunder for when and if this thing gets to his desk. That’s when we really need to put a full-court press on.”
Commissioner Charlie Salem asked if the city’s lobbyist has at least informed DeSantis that the proposed vacation rental legislation might be headed his way. Murphy said that’s a good idea.
Murphy implored the city commissioners to urge their constituents to continue sending emails and letters to the Senate and House committee members who will determine whether the proposed bills make it to their respective floors for a final vote.
Murphy said the city’s recent labeling of the proposed legislation as a “party house bill” has gained a lot of traction in Tallahassee.
City Clerk LeAnne Addy and her staff manage the Home Rule Florida website that issues email updates and calls to action to those registered to receive them. The website contains pre-formatted email messages users can use to quickly and easily contact multiple state legislators at one time.
During the April 13 meeting, Addy said HomeRuleFl.com users have sent 30,489 emails to state legislators since the legislative session began in March.
“I’m very impressed by the work LeAnne and the mayor are doing,” Commissioner Jon Crane said. “I’m very impressed with the use of party house branding for this issue.”
“It takes away our right to regulate occupancy and they can jam as many people into a house as they want,” Murphy said in response.
Commissioner Deanie Sebring said most people who vacation in Anna Maria don’t want to stay next to a “party house.”
“If I was going on vacation and renting a house, I wouldn’t want all that madness next to me because it would ruin my vacation,” she said. “If you want to party, don’t rent a place in Anna Maria. Rent it someplace else.”
“It’s a family destination,” Commission Chair Mark Short added.