Commissioners prepare for state legislative session

Holmes Beach legislative session
Lobbyist Cari Roth gives Holmes Beach city leaders an update on what to expect in the coming state legislative session beginning Jan. 9. - Kristin Swain | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – Lobbyist Cari Roth is heading back to Tallahassee to fight for the right of municipalities to govern vacation rentals during the upcoming Florida legislative session.

Roth visited Holmes Beach to meet one on one with city leaders and present her plans to fight against state removal of home rule over vacation rental properties on the city’s behalf. Her goals for the upcoming legislative session, she said, are to continue collaborative efforts with the Florida League of Cities and pursue vacation rental legislation that allows for a grandfathering of “reasonable” existing municipality regulations.

Roth said that after review, she feels the city’s vacation rental ordinance, which requires owners of short-term rentals to undergo inspection and licensing, qualifies as reasonable regulation. In preparing for the January start of the 2018 legislative session, Roth is compiling data from both city code enforcement and the Holmes Beach Police Department on issues found in vacation rentals and officer response to resident complaints.

Other allies Roth hopes to work with to combat local deregulation of vacation rentals are the lobbyists representing the hotel industry. While online rental company Airbnb has put $1 million in a PAC fund to remove local regulations, Roth said the hotel industry is helping to fund the movement to “level the playing field” and create regulations that treat vacation rentals as businesses, forcing them to adhere to the same regulations and tax payments hotel owners face.

Last year’s vacation rental bill, which passed the state House of Representatives by a narrow margin of 63 to 56 votes, has been refiled for consideration during the 2018 legislative session by Rep. Mike La Rosa. With 2018 being an election year, Roth said she expects the topic of vacation rental regulations to be a prominent item during the 60-day session.

“There are a lot of extra politics in the mix this year,” she said.

Mayor Bob Johnson said he believes the key to success in Tallahassee will be having “representatives who communicate well within the Legislature.” He said by working with the feedback received from the previous session and keeping lines of communication open between Tallahassee and interested parties on the local level, he hopes the voices of municipal leaders will be heard by state leaders.

The 2018 legislative session begins on Tuesday, Jan. 9.