Vacation-rental bills die in Legislature

Two bills that had Florida Keys officials worried about local control died in the state Senate Friday.

The House version of the vacation rental bill, House Bill 425, was sponsored by Rep. Mike La Rosa (R-St. Cloud) and had narrowly passed in late April, 63-56. Its sister Senate Bill 188, sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota), was not taken up by senators as the annual two-month legislative session came to a close Friday night (technically, Monday, when lawmakers agreed on a budget).

In a nutshell, the bills said rules created for short-term vacation rentals would have to apply to all homes in the municipality. Also, municipalities wouldn’t have been able to regulate how long or often vacation rentals are rented out.

However, current state law allows the local regulations if localities already had laws in place prior to 2011. If those local laws change, however, much-less-strict state rules take over.

“I kind of expected it,” said Marathon City Councilman Mark Senmartin about the bills dying. “I think we just have to keep a good handle on our own rules and continue to enforce them.”

HB 659

A bill sponsored by Rep. Holly Raschein also died, early in the session. It would have protected members of the LGBT community from housing discrimination.

Raschein (R-Key Largo) told the Keynoter HB 659 would have made sexual orientation and gender identity impermissible grounds for discrimination from a landlord. It died in the House Careers and Competition Subcommittee in February and was “indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration,” according to the House website.

“It’s a tough issue to tackle,” Raschein said Thursday.

Still, she’s optimistic about the future of HB 623, which is similar and also died early on but gained the support of 69 cosponsors between the House and Senate in the process.

“So that’s a positive move,” Raschein said.

Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219