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Controversial bill to regulate local vacation rentals passes first House panel

Posted at 4:21 PM, Feb 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-22 13:30:45-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (News Service of Florida)-Controversial legislation that would restrict the ability of local governments to regulate local vacation rentals passed its first House panel Thursday.

By a 13 to 11 vote, the government accountability committee narrowly passed the bill which would prevent local ordinances from stopping the short-term rentals, while turning over most regulation to the state.

Local regulations put in place after 2011 would be nullified under the plan.

Bill proponents say the issue boils down to property rights, and allowing people to do what they want with their homes. Bill sponsor Mike LaRosa says all homeowners in a city should be treated the same, and the laws surrounding short-term rentals need to be uniform.

"There's nothing that a local government cannot do, as long as they do it uniformly across the board," LaRosa said. "If you have a trash problem, make it an ordinance across the board. If you have a parking problem, make it an ordinance across the board."

Opponents of the legislation include hoteliers worried about increased competition and neighboring homeowners living next door to vacation rental property. Representative Joseph Abruzzo says the legislation needs more work.

"We have to make sure we get this right. We are the number one state in the nation for tourism, and this drives right at the heart of our economy," Abruzzo said.

Amendments added to the bill Thursday aimed at making it more difficult for sexual offenders to rent from businesses like Airbnb, Homeaway and others.