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Not Dead Yet: Vacation-Rental Bill Flagler Opposes Clears Last House Committee , 17-11

| April 24, 2017

Today's vote was another reversal for Flagler County government and its attorney, Al Hadeed, who's argued the county's position at five successive legislative hearings.

Today’s vote was another reversal for Flagler County government and its attorney, Al Hadeed, who’s argued the county’s position at five successive legislative hearings. He argued before the House Commerce Committee today.

Last week around this time Flagler County government officials were exchanging long-distance high-fives, from Tallahassee to Bunnell, as the Senate version of a short-term vacation rental bill Flagler government opposes changed beyond recognition.

The original version of the bill would have scrapped local governments’ authority to regulate vacation rentals. The version that ended up winning that committee’s approval, however, was little more than an endorsement of the status quo. Local governments could continue regulating, if with a light hand. That’s what Flagler government had fought for when it got a law enacted in 2014 to do just that.

But the House version of the bill largely kept the original contours of the Senate bill: it would again forbid local governments to regulate vacation-rentals, as one such law had between 2011 and 2014. And that version of the bill cleared its third and last House committee this morning when it passed the Commerce Committee on a 17-11 vote.

It was the exact vote margin the bill has garnered in its three committee stops—60 percent approval.

Still, Flagler County Attorney Al Hadeed, who has so far appeared before five House and Senate committees to argue against the bills, found some solace in today’s hearing as he pointed to the degree to which some members voiced their reservations, in contrast with previous hearings.

“We did not expect to prevail: the sponsor sits on the committee, which makes it very, very difficult because that would be repudiation of one of their fellow members,” Hadeed said. “But despite that I’m very pleased we were able to elicit the commentaries of House members who are now beginning to understand the real issue.”

If differences between the House and Senate versions aren’t resolved, the bills die.

Whether that’s enough is up to the intricate next steps in the legislative process. The Senate version of the bill gets its last hearing Tuesday, in the Rules Committee. That largely innocuous version is expected to pass the committee, absent still-more amendments that could be filed as late as this evening, and that could make the bill again look like its House counterpart. Hadeed doesn’t expect that to be the case: he was returning to Flagler this afternoon, and will not appear before the Senate committee Tuesday.

Should the two different versions of the bills head to the Legislature’s respective floors in their present versions, there could still be more amendments presented on either the Senate or the House floor in attempts to join the two versions. But as time passes, that becomes more difficult to do, simply because the clock is running: session ends May 5. If the Senate and the House fail to agree on a unified bill, then the two versions die, and the 2014 law remains in place, unscathed, because only a unified bill may make it to the governor’s desk. The two chambers do “conference” differing bills, but usually only in matters of budget.

So for now, both versions remain alive.

“I’m not trying to tell local governments not to create ordinances, I’m trying to tell local governments that if they’re going to create ordinances, to treat all residential properties fair, and everyone is being treated the same way,” Rep. Mike La Rosa, a St. Cloud Republican, said of his bill.

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Armando Ibarra of the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association countered La Rosa’s equivalency this way: “This is kind of akin in many ways to requiring all residential kitchens to be regulated or provided oversight in the same way that you would regulate a kitchen that produces 100,000 cakes in a year. It just isn’t reasonable, it isn’t realistic.” He noted that the House’s own staff analysis of the bill refers to short-term rentals as commercial endeavors.

La Rosa had described various horror stories let loose by the 2014 law, such as $20,000 fines for non-compliance by Miami Beach, 180-day suspension of licenses, one-hour notices for code inspections, aesthetic regulations, all of it leading to “millions of dollars” in claims under a property. Claims aside, none of that has been seen in Flagler, and even the claims issue, Hadeed said, has not led to lawsuits but to mediations over the vested rights of certain properties.

There were a few thousand vacation rental properties earlier in the decade in the state. The industry has boomed to some 20,000 properties—ironically, booming healthily after the 2014 regulatory regimes were in place, suggesting that the law has not discouraged commerce.

Yet that’s how proponents of the industry see it. “As soon as the Legislature permitted them to single out vacation rentals, boom,” Lori Killinger, a lobbyist for the Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association said, snapping her finger, “it was like a finger came out of the dam, and at least 35 local governments that we could find, between basically 2014 and now, started passing ordinances left and right that were 20, 30, 40 pages in length, internally inconsistent, significant fines, would force you to register for them to be able to suspend your registration so you would no longer be able to rent your home as a vacation rental. That is what has forced us to come back here today.”

Several legislators explained their votes, with those in the opposition, like Rep. Rick Roth, a Palm Beach Gardens Republican, concluding that the industry’s claims are overstated. “There’s not as much of a problem as purported to be,” Roth said.

The Senate Rules Committee takes up its version of the bill at 2 p.m. Tuesday.



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5 Responses for “Not Dead Yet: Vacation-Rental Bill Flagler Opposes Clears Last House Committee , 17-11”

  1. Wishful Thinking says:

    The House Sponsor of the still totally illegal version HB425 , once again is a Florida Licensed Real Estate Sales Person. His license is governed by the rules of the Dept Business and Professional Reg. ( DBPR).
    Florida Statute 475 requires licensees to know what is legal and not legal and his unqualified use of the word ‘fair’ should be interpreted only as the intent of what single family residential zoning allows and that is NOT commercial use. How many of his own clients might be illegally renting their homes while filing for the very protective homestead exemptions and benefits. Answer that one LaRosa. His RE license should be suspended at minimum for his attempts to destroy the quiet peace and enjoyment our DEEDS to single family zoning entitle us to, May this entire bill fall on its ugly face(s). We should be ready to fill up our gas tanks and haul up to Tallahassee if the bills reach the full floor. Thanks again Al Hadeed – wish you would run for Governor !

  2. K says:

    Why is it that Republicans are only against big government when it helps poor and middle class people but not when it helps wealthy investors?

  3. Ben Hogarth says:

    I just want to add that Al’s testimony to the committee was exemplary. The Deputy Fire Chief also provided some very valid points. Nothing you could have said would have changed the minds of those individuals who had been sold behind closed doors on he issue by the sponsor and the industry.

    There are a lot of lines pockets in the capital currently. Regardless, Al made one hell of a case against the State legislators who have been quite wild in their assertions of the needed protection of private property rights. Nowhere else in statute is there a similar precedent for treating residentially zoned units as commercial. This is more than an egregious effort to help campaign contributors. A very similar approach is being taken with regard to the wireless infrastructure bill that has been bought and paid for by AT&T. Lined pockets indeed…

    In some form, this is also a gross overreach by the State considering the intent of the Florida Constitutional provisions regarding local government authority.

    I don’t think Al could have made it any clearer. They simply don’t care.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Whoever votes for this needs to be voted out of office. they don’t care about us they care for the big guy like VRBO get rid of their ASSES

  5. Jan says:

    Next, it’ll be rentals by the hour – already happening with Airbnb, and who knows who else?

    It’s going on in Daytona Beach, according to one person who spoke at the hearing, and here is a NY Times article about it:

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