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Palm Coast Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 4 years ago

Bills on vacation rentals, red-light cameras advance

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by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

A Senate bill to repeal a statute deregulating vacation rentals is making headway, as is a House of Representatives bill that would bar municipalities from adding new red-light cameras after July and drop the fine on existing cameras to $83.

Flagler County Board of County Commissioners Vice Chairman Frank Meeker addressed the State Senate Committee on Regulated Industries Jan. 9 to argue in favor of a Senate Bill — SB 356 — that would return control of vacation rentals to local counties and cities.

The bill passed the committee with a unanimous 8-0 vote and would reverse HB 883, a bill the Florida Legislature passed in 2011 to deregulate the rentals.

That bill was, in part, a reaction to an economy in which struggling homeowners were renting out their houses to stay afloat during the recession. But after deregulation, people began building what have been termed “McMansions,”often with 10 or more rooms, in residential neighborhoods, and rented them out to dozens of people at a time while frustrated neighbors fumed.

Although SB 356 would return control to local governments, lawmakers are still hammering out the details of how the change would be enacted, said Rep. Travis Hutson, who filed a companion bill in the House.

One of the issues that has raised concern, Hutson said, is what would happen to current vacation rentals under the proposed legislation.

“We want the county to be able to regulate and maintain, but I don’t think we want the county to completely do away with them, because I think there are some legal issues there,” he said. “If the law were to pass tomorrow, can the county come in and say,'You’re no longer a vacation rental?' I don’t think they can. But the county might come in and say, ‘No more than five cars in this lot’, or, ‘No noise after midnight.’”

Hutson hopes to present the House bill in February’s committee weeks.

“The goal for me is to try to be on the floor the first week of the session," he said. "So (Sen. John Thrasher) could pass it on his side, and I could pass it on mine, and hopefully we’ll have a law."

Red light cameras

A bill approved 10-3 by the Florida House Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee Jan. 9  would make red-light camera tickets a bit less painful: $83 instead of $158.

The bill would also bar municipalities from adding new cameras after July 1 of this year — current cameras would continue to operate — and prohibit financial arrangements that allow municipalities to lose money on the cameras or make a profit on them.

“What this bill would do is say essentially, 'OK, if we do agree with you that there are traffic issues, then we’ll make it truly about traffic safety,'” Hutson said. “You’re not going to lose money, but you’re not going to make money.”

Hutson said he supports the bill in its current form.

The bill would also cap court costs at $108. Its next stop is the House Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

Red light cameras were explicitly authorized for use in Florida in 2010 with the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, named after a Manatee County resident killed by a red-light runner.

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