Holmes Beach is no stranger to the struggle to protect home rule.
Starting last year with the 2018 legislative session, the city employed lobbyist Cari Roth to oppose legislation that would weaken local regulatory power.
For the 2019 session, which will begin March 5, Holmes Beach renewed a $50,000 annual contract with Roth.
Roth will continue to fight for home rule, monitoring Senate Bill 824, legislation sponsored by Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, to give oversight of vacation rentals to the state and limit local government regulations.
The bill, filed Feb. 7, was referred as of Feb. 20 to innovation, industry and technology; community affairs; and appropriations subcommittees.
“If this were to pass, it would basically destroy every ordinance that we have” regarding vacation rentals, Commissioner Rick Hurst said at the Feb. 12 city meeting.
He then asked, “Am I reading this correctly?”
Mayor Judy Titsworth said, “No limits of occupancy, no limits of length-of-stay, it would pretty much get rid of our vacation rental program. So we are going to take the same approach we’ve done in the past. We’re going to reach out and come up with a sample letter of issues we object to and why.”
City attorney Patricia Petruff suggested commissioners disseminate information about the bill and others that could affect vacation rental regulations to their constituents.
Additionally, Petruff said Roth asked commissioners to submit notes to her regarding SB 824 and other bills of concern and she would “argue on our behalf the way we want her to argue or to present.”
Hurst asked Petruff if Roth knew any odds of SB 824 passing and Petruff responded, “Right now there is a lot of what I’d call jockeying going on. Yes, we’ve seen some of this language before, and so you don’t know what type of horse-trading might be going on.”
SB 824 is similar to SB 1400, filed by state Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, to regulate vacation rentals in 2018, and SB 188, filed by Steube in 2017. Neither of Steube’s bills passed.
Petruff said SB 824 is extreme in its attempt to remove home rule in the face of private property rights.
“I just think that bill probably goes way too far,” she said. “I’d like to think that it wouldn’t have a chance of passing, but I’ve learned never to predict the outcome of votes” in session, the city attorney said.