For the ninth year running, local regulations of short-term vacation rentals in Flagler County and across Florida survived a legislative attempt at dilution and pre-emption by the state. Given the legislature’s accelerated push for pre-empting powers to the state, it is a rare victory for home rule, but similar bills will almost certainly be filed again as the fast-growing vacation-rental industry looks to unfetter itself from regulations.
For advocates of local regulations, preserving legal standards in place since 2014 came down to a last-minute escape this time. (See: “With Travis Hutson Cheering, Bill Upending Flagler’s Vacation-Rental Controls Clears Last Hurdle Before Vote.”)
Both the Florida Senate and the House bill crafted this year would have significantly scaled back a local government’s power to regulate vacation rentals. For example, Flagler County’s occupancy limit of 10 guests would have been scrapped, unless the same occupancy applied to all residential homes in the county. The bills in some forms would have left in place the power to regulate safety matters.
Both had cleared the two chambers’ respective gauntlet of committees, accumulating amendments along the way. Both versions had passed the full chambers by comfortable votes–28-10 in the Senate, 73-39 in the house. Both Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Paul Renner, who represent Flagler County, voted for the respective bills, going against the wishes of both the Flagler County Commission and Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin, who spoke in opposition to the bills last Tuesday.
Hutson had co-sponsored the 2014 bill that restored local regulation. He voted in favor of the Senate bill scaling those back, saying it carved out a protection for the Hammock Dunes community.
Then came the twist. The bill Renner voted for on Wednesday included a floor amendment introduced during debate by Rep. Wyman Duggan, the Duval County Republican, that gutted the senate version, replacing a lot of the wording of the House’;s bill–which until then had resembled the Senate’s–with provisions far friendlier to the vacation rental industry. The amendment would have eliminated local governments’ ability to regulate such things as fire and safety issues, as they do now.
With those changes, the House bill would have had to be reconciled with the Senate’s. The Senate would have had to accept the changes. At 9:19 this morning, it rejected them. The Senate requested that the House concur with the Senate’s version. The House did not do so. The bill died: today was the last day of the session.
Lawmakers finalized a $117 billion budget and an accompanying $1.3 billion tax package to end a legislative session that carried out many of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ priorities.
After adjourning “sine die” — the traditional declaration that marks the end of the annual 60-day session — just before 11 a.m., Renner pointed to a series of key issues that he said lawmakers addressed.
“When we were traveling the state, we were often reminded of the major things on Floridians’ minds,” Renner said during a ceremony in the Capitol’s fourth-floor rotunda between the House and Senate chambers. “Affordability was one of those. The runaway litigation climate was one of those. Having an educated workforce was one of those. And … we had the worst hurricane that we’ve ever faced. On each and every one of those issues, we delivered for the people of Florida.”
Lawmakers began the session in early March after also holding special sessions in December and February. During a news conference Friday, DeSantis touted issues passed by the Legislature.
“I don’t think we’ve seen a six-month stretch that has ever been this productive in the history of our state,” DeSantis said, pointing to legislation on issues such as immigration, expanded school vouchers and changes to higher education. “And I would put us up against any state in the modern history of our country.”
Democrats, however, argued that the regular session was filled with “missed opportunities” and “culture war” legislation that did not address issues such as high insurance rates, skyrocketing rent costs and unaffordable health care.
As an example, Rep. Dotie Joseph, D-North Miami, pointed to $12 million that Republicans approved for a program to transport migrants to other states. That came after the DeSantis administration last year flew 49 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
“Instead of spending $12 million to hunt down or profile immigrants legally admitted by federal immigration officials and fly them on a private jet to Martha’s Vineyard, we could expand Medicaid, which unlocks billions in federal dollars to help U.S. citizens in Florida,” Joseph said.
House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, said the session was highlighted by DeSantis’ “extremist agenda” on issues such as restricting abortion, allowing people to carry guns without concealed-weapons licenses and expanding a fight with Walt Disney Co.
While Republicans and Democrats battled throughout the session on major policy issues, the House and Senate passed the budget (SB 2500) and tax package (HB 7063) with little opposition.
The tax package includes a series of expanded sales-tax “holidays” on back-to-school items, disaster-preparedness gear and summer events. The package, which DeSantis is expected to sign, also would trim a commercial-lease tax and give tax breaks on purchases ranging from diapers for babies and adults to cattle fencing, firearm-storage devices and gas stoves.
“We have a lot of money to do extra things with. You are seeing that with investments into education, investments into infrastructure, and investments into the environment. With all of those investments, we still have extra money. It’s only right to give that money back to the taxpayers,” Senate Finance and Tax Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, said.
While DeSantis has line-item veto power, the budget passed Friday would be 6.4 percent higher than the spending plan for the current fiscal year, which will end June 30.
–FlaglerLive and Tom Urban, News Service of Florida
Thank God, neither our Senator or Representative voted in the interests of their constituents, and thankfully they are termed out. When the replacement candidates start appearing we need to vote for those who will support their constituents not out of town rental owners!
Michael Cocchiola says
However it happened, the death – for now- of this bill is a good thing.
ROGER C says
It is hard to understand why our Legislators, including our Representative Renner and Senator Hutson, would support, and even cheer, a bill taking away Flagler County’s ability to regulate, to a limited extent, the short term rental business. It is very clear that a wide margin of our citizens (i.e. voters) are oppossed to unregulated short term rentals in their communities, and particularly without regulations contolling occupancy. They apparantely don’t care what those that voted to send them to the Legislature want.
WARNING: this comment contains a wee tad of sarcasm, I will leave it to the reader to make note of it.
What is so hard to understand? They have their hands out to the rental lobbies. You the voting taxpayer simply do not pay them enough to do your bidding. You taxpayers have two choices, pay them enough so they do not have to go begging for subsistence funding from powerful lobby groups; OR, you could simply elect honest, ethical representatives who will listen to their constituents and represent you in Tallahassee and Washington. Until then, put up with the scum that gets elected . . .
Roger: They do not care about us, they only care about the multi -billion dollar corporations that donate money to their campaigns, that tell people, who do not bother to do research, to vote for them, which they do. Vote them out!!!
Why is occupancy an issue? Any one family dwelling with a transient occupancy is already prevented by the Florida Building Code occupancy classification from being occupied by more then 10 transient occupants. A one family dwelling is a R3 occupancy. If this dwelling was occupied by more then 10 transient occupants then this dwelling would be considered an R1 occupancy classification. This R1 occupancy would be prevented from operating in areas zoned for single family operations.
Very sad to see that our House and Senate Representative voted in favor of out of town management vacation rental companies over there constituents. Let’s be clear that our local representatives looking to move into the state position would do the exact same thing. Can we get people that really care about our neighborhoods to run against the norm with no political agenda.
Ron – it is all a matter of local enforcement. The local building department and fire department must work together to determine if an actual violation exists. If they make such a determination a violation order must be written and delivered to the property owner. At that point the waiting clock starts. I am not intimate with the Florida Statutes on this issue but in one state I know very well, I could issue an immediate evacuation order for occupancy violations. In another we had to wait up to 90 days for a series of steps to happen. s
More likely than not, the state legislature will simply change the building code definitions you reference. With the stroke of a pen, the definitions for R-1’s and R-3’s could be rewritten very easily. After all, those elected officials know what is best for us.
It is a shame that our elected officials turned their backs on us. Also remember to listen closely and follow the money trail at election time. Vote. Hold them accountable. If you have questions, ask. I would not vote for either of these two, even if they ran for dog catcher!
Wishful thinking says
Renner saved the day for us this year by his greed and stupidity. He is more of a whore in my opinion than Hutson. I am a Republican who is supporting a real person running for the now open seat :Adam Morley yep Adam is a Democrat who cares about us not the money bag slime gang
This vote clearly shows that $$ for the state in rental incomes, fees and taxes is more important than the actual living residents next to these non-enforced vacation rental. Airbnb collects these taxes on behalf of their hosts and remits them to the state. This includes the Florida Transient Rental Tax of 6%, Florida Discretionary Sales Surtax of 0.5-1.5% and the County Tourist Development Tax of 2-5% for 24 counties. Hosts however are responsible for collecting and remitting other taxes as per relevant county and city laws.
Case in point. 3 bedroom home 2 doors down in Marineland acres with a sceptic tank. By code, its 2 people per bedroom. So how come the vacation rental company is allowing 13 people to stay in the house, are they not checking or just don’t care.
Vacation rentals are fine in areas that are monitored by a hotel, where you need to physically walk in to check in. Where there is a staff present. Hawks Cay, in the Keys, does just that, and there are many others. That does not happen in single family residential zoned neighborhoods. These short term rentals are in essence commercially defined, front deskless motel units that do not have to comply with codes that other businesses and hotels must. A new business has to bend over backwards to comply with county regulations. Vacation rentals do not. No one is monitoring them unless the “guest” is asking the host a question. The host next door is in charge of not six, not 16, but 60 units scattered about, some out of state. If there are 12 people in a unit that, legally, only supports six people, it’s up to the neighbors to monitor it. Your new job, without pay, but instead, with headaches.
Some think that Flagler County is doing an excellent job with these vacation rentals. I disagree, as long as these commercial units are within single family residential zones. They should not be there, and the county is letting us down in this aspect. Give us our neighborhoods back again! Put commercial businesses back where they belong.
Why does it take a concern citizen to point out that a one family dwelling being used for transient operations are only permitted up to ten occupants according to the Florida Building occupancy code?
Maybe our local officials should direct their staff to search all the technology sites advertising one family dwellings in Flagler County as vacation rentals with occupancy above ten to have those advertisements remove or the occupancy levels lowered to the proper levels.
Why would our state legislators allow occupancy to exceed those limits by bypassing the Florida Building Occupancy Code that was put in place for the safety of those transient occupants occupying these dwellings? These dwellings have occupant loads in place for a reason!
I have watch all the videos in the house and senate during each community meeting on this subject. You can tell that most of the legislators are not educated on this subject. They just vote in favor to appease each other. I am just wondering if they read the objections made by their constituents. Do they realize over 90 percent of Floridians are not in favor of vacation rental operations in their neighborhoods. Particularly if they are operating without regulations and enforcement by their local governments.