Home rule limits zip through Legislature

The battle for home rule in the face of state preemption is intensifying in Tallahassee.

Two bills being considered by the Legislature — Senate Bill 1128 filed by Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, and House Bill 1011 filed by Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, and co-sponsored by Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud — would preempt local vacation rental regulations to the state.

Vacation rental programs in Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach would be dissolved, with licensing and inspections performed by state departments.

Local governments would be able to regulate noise, parking and trash, but rules would have to apply to all properties in a city, not just short-term rental properties.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation would conduct inspections.

According to an alert from the Florida League of Cities, the DBPR’s 2018 audit report determined “the agency has struggled to meet its own approved performance standards for lodging inspection measures and will continue to struggle.”

SB 1128 had been referred to the rules committee for its last committee vote March 2, press time for The Islander, and could be headed to the Senate floor for a final vote.

HB 1011 was approved Feb. 20 14-9 by the commerce committee — a last stop before heading to a vote in the House.

Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton, who represents Anna Maria Island, voted against the bill.

The bills will need to be conferenced and only one of the two — or a consolidated version — would go to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

In a Feb. 24 interview with the media, DeSantis said he is unsure if the state should preempt local regulatory power for vacation rentals and is “leaning against” such measures.

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy said Feb. 28 that he and Commissioner Carol Carter have made trips to Tallahassee this session, and would be headed back to testify before the rules committee for the March 2 vote.

Murphy said he and Carter plan to tell state lawmakers that their primary concern is with public safety.

“We are concerned with occupancy,” he said. “Before we started our program, 20 people would be crammed in a four-bedroom house. That’s a public safety issue.”

As part of the rental registration, annual safety inspections are conducted in accordance with the city’s code.

Murphy also said the city requires registration for vacation rentals, with a number for an agent that can be reached 24/7 if there is a problem.

“Many of these properties are owned by LLCs with owners that live elsewhere,” he said. “Having a local agent is key.”

Bills being considered this session and information to connect with legislative committee members can be tracked online at www.flsenate.gov and myfloridahouse.gov.

The legislative session is scheduled to sine die March 13.


How to contact state legislators

Florida legislators can be contacted via phone, email, regular mail or in person.

  • Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton. 941-741-3401; galvano.bill@flsenate.gov; his office: 1023 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, FL, 34205.
  • Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota. 941-378-6309; gruters.joe@flsenate.gov; his office: 381 Interstate Blvd., Sarasota, FL, 34240.
  • State Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton. 941-708-4968; will.robinson@myfloridahouse.gov; his office: 717 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, FL, 34205.

Bert Harris bill a concern for Holmes Beach

At a Holmes Beach Commission meeting Feb. 25, Commission Chair Jim Kihm, the commission’s legislative liaison, said Senate Bill 1766, filed by Tom Lee, R-Brandon, and its companion, House Bill 519, filed by James Grant, R-Tampa, are causes for concern.

SB 1766 would require any settlement reached on a Bert J. Harris Jr. Private Property Rights Protection Act claim that involves the issuance of a variance or exception to a regulation be applied across the board to all “similarly situated residential properties.”

The Bert Harris Act allows demands for compensation due to government regulations that diminish the value of private property.

Holmes Beach is a party in 28 pending Bert Harris Act related lawsuits.

SB 1766 has been referred to the Senate rules committee for a final committee vote March 2.

HB 519 has been approved by all committees and is awaiting a vote on the House floor.

“I encourage people to reach out to the Senate and let them know how you feel about these issues,” Kihm said. “The time is now.”

— ChrisAnn Allen