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Published January 24, 2021 in The Anna Maria Island Sun. By Joe Hendricks. Read  the  full article here  .

Legislators again seek state regulation of vacation rentals

ANNA MARIA – Florida Sen. Manny Diaz (R-Hialeah) and Florida Rep. Jason Fischer (R-Jacksonville) are once again trying to take away local governments’ ability to regulate vacation rentals and vacation rental advertising.

The Florida Legislature will convene for its annual 60-day legislative session on Tuesday, March 2. Diaz and Fischer have already filed identical bills that are similar to the legislation they unsuccessfully pursued in 2020.

Diaz filed Senate Bill 522 on Jan. 11 and Fischer filed House Bill 219 on Jan. 12. If adopted, the latest proposed legislation would essentially eliminate the ability of the Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach governments to regulate vacation rentals at the city level.

Both bills contain language that is similar to last year’s failed legislation.

“A local law, ordinance or regulation may not allow or require the local inspection or licensing of public lodging establishments, including vacation rentals,” according to SB 522 and HB 219.

“A local law, ordinance or regulation may regulate activities that arise when a property is used as a vacation rental if the law, ordinance, or regulation applies uniformly to all residential properties without regard to whether the property is used as a vacation rental, as a long-term rental or the property owner chooses not to rent the property. However, a local law, ordinance or regulation may not prohibit vacation rentals or regulate the duration or frequency of rental of vacation rentals,” according to both bills.

“The prohibitions set forth in this paragraph do not apply to any local law, ordinance or regulation adopted on or before June 1, 2011, including when such law, ordinance, or regulation is being amended to be less restrictive with regard to a prohibition or a duration or frequency regulation,” according to the filed bills.

Local Concerns

During the Jan. 14 Anna Maria City Commission meeting, commission Chair Carol Carter referenced a presentation that Florida League of Cities President Tony Ortez gave earlier that day to the ManaSota League of Cities.

“He’s focused already on some of the vacation rental issues that we have. As some of you already know, Senate Bill 522 has already been introduced by Mr. Diaz. Again, the same thing as last year – they want to preempt to the state our ability to regulate and register vacation rentals. We’ll have the same battle again this year,” Carter said.

Carter said she and Mayor Dan Murphy have already met once with State Rep. Will Robinson (R-Bradenton), who in past years has been an ally in the Island cities’ fight on this issue, helping to defeat some of the previous efforts to take away the ability of local governments to regulate vacation rentals.

Carter said she and Murphy may also seek the assistance of former Senate President Bill Galvano, who, along with lobbyist Chip Case and City Attorney Becky Vose, helped defeat last year’s legislative efforts.

“The situation is already tense and they haven’t even started session, so be aware of that,” Carter cautioned.

As they’ve done in recent years, the cities of Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach have also retained lobbyists to oppose the proposed vacation rental legislation.

Home Rule Florida

During the Jan. 14 meeting, Anna Maria commissioners authorized Murphy to use $3,640 of the city’s funds to partner with and upgrade the existing Home Rule Florida website,

In recent years, the Home Rule Florida website has become a comprehensive source of information for citizens and public officials in their ongoing efforts to preserve and protect cities’ home rule rights.

When presenting his funding request, Murphy said, “The Home Rule website is a website where residents or anyone else can fire off a letter to your legislator. You can fire off multiple letters regarding home rule, specifically directed at vacation rentals and pending legislation.

“The site needs to be upgraded. It needs to be made more user friendly. It was put together initially by Bob Carter, Dick York and (the late) Norm Mansour. They did a great job, but we need to fine-tune it. We’re asking for $3,640 to upgrade the site,” Murphy said.

He noted upgrades would include linking the Home Rule Florida website to other social media networks and platforms.

“We get a clean website that’s easy to navigate,” Murphy told the commission, who then unanimously supported his request.

When asked later, Murphy said York and Bob Carter will remain involved with the Home Rule Florida website.

Carol Carter encourages concerned citizens and public officials from all three Island cities and beyond to email and ask to be added to the Home Rule Florida database and email distribution list.

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