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Proposed state rental legislation causing growing home-rule concern

Sen. Steube’s Florida Vacation Rental Act draws fire

Manatee County Tourist Development Council says bill would take away home rule. Concerns will be passed on to the county commission.
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Manatee County Tourist Development Council says bill would take away home rule. Concerns will be passed on to the county commission.

Alarmed by Sen. Greg Steube’s Senate Bill 1400 that would create the “Florida Vacation Rental Act,” a delegation of hotel operators brought their concerns to the Manatee County Tourist Development Council on Monday.

The bill would transfer regulation of vacation rentals from local government to the state. That would present an issue of fairness and cost jobs, Bharat Patel, Florida regional director of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, told the council.

“The bill, if it passes, will hurt the economy,” Patel said.

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Manatee County Tourist Development Council members went on record Monday expressing opposition to Sen. Greg Steube’s Florida Vacation Rental Act. Their views will be sent to the Manatee County Commission. Shown above are council members Carol Whitmore, Dale Sconyers and Doug Copeland. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

Carol Whitmore, chair of the Tourist Development Council, asked the council to make a recommendation to the county commission to oppose Steube’s bill.

“I do not like home rule being taken away,” Whitmore said.

The TDC, which serves in an advisory capacity to the county commission, unanimously supported Whitmore’s recommendation.

“It will take all responsibility from the local government and put it on the state, which is not prepared to regulate the vacation rental industry,” Doug Copeland, an Anna Maria city commissioner who serves on the TDC, said of Steube’s bill. “You’re foolish if you believe the state is going to inspect for safety.”

I do not like home rule being taken away.

Carol Whitmore, chair of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council

The county’s ability to inspect short-term rentals would be taken away under Steube’s bill, Whitmore said.

“It seems like the bill has momentum and that’s the problem,” she said.

In a column to the Bradenton Herald published in October, Steube, R-Sarasota, said nothing would make the Florida hotel industry and local governments happier than if they could ban short-term rentals in the state.

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Bharat Patel, Florida regional director of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, voices his group’s concerns about Sen. Greg Steube’s Florida Vacation Rental Act. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

“Since 2011, local governments and hotels have attempted to restrict or outright ban vacation rentals,” Steube wrote. “The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association’s interest in this issue is not about creating a level playing field. It’s about taking away consumer choice and protecting hotel market share.”

In other business Monday, the TDC:

  • Approved moving $150,000 in reserves to be used for airline incentives. Incentives in the past helped Sarasota Bradenton International Airport attract new providers, such as Allegiant and Elite, opening up new routes between SRQ and Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Portland, Maine, and White Plains, N.Y.
  • Met Judith Tilton, newly appointed director of cultural affairs for the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. The arts will grow in importance as a reason for visitors to stay in Manatee County. Tilton will work with businesses and arts organizations throughout the county. “If we have a thriving arts scene, it will flow over into tourist development,” Tilton said.
  • Heard Walter Klages, owner of Data Research Services, forecast strong tourism throughout 2018, with growth projected at 2.7 percent in Manatee County.
  • Received a sports tourism update from Sean Walter Sr. The Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau sponsored 77 events in the most recent fiscal year and plans 85 events in the current year, Walter said. The county “hit the ground running” with its purchase of Premier Sports Campus. Antonio Saviano, who was director of sports at the campus under developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, now works as general manager of the facility. The county is looking for an event manager to assist Saviano.
  • Re-elected David Teitlebaum of Anna Maria Island Resorts as vice chairman.

James A. Jones Jr.: 941-745-7053, @jajones1

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