I worked hard to restore local control in 2014. But I do not think this issue is going away anytime soon, and we may always be fighting this issue.
By Travis Hutson
As more and more attention is drawn to Senate Bill 188 regarding vacation rentals, I think it is important that my community has a deeper understanding of what is going on in Tallahassee than what they see watching one committee meeting.
I’ve always been an advocate for local control of vacation rentals. I worked hard to restore local control in 2014. But I do not think this issue is going away anytime soon, and we may always be fighting this issue.
There are 20 new members of the Senate, and I know many are very savvy with regard to private property rights issues, and they believe that the local governments have overstepped and taken private property rights away with unreasonable fines on vacation rentals.
I spoke with several Flagler County commissioners and explained my fears that an industry-backed bill has a good chance to undo all the hard work I did to restore local control to our community.
This year, I am the chair of the Regulated Industries Committee, and I am able to set the agenda of that committee. When Senate Bill 188 came to my committee, I saw that I had a chance to do something with it.
After talking with the county commissioners and several of the attorneys on my committee staff, I came up with a plan that would ensure local control, and I offered an amendment. I believed the elected locals were behind the plan; however, the county attorney, Al Hadeed, lodged a disagreement.
After an hour-long phone call in which we discussed the ins and out of my amendment, the conversation ended with Mr. Hadeed saying that my amendment may help Senate Bill 188 garner more votes in the Senate, but he said that was actually a bad thing. The best thing for Flagler County, Mr. Hadeed believes, is for the bill to be killed. I agreed, but at least my amendment preserves some local control; it’s better than nothing.
Still, the County Commission asked me to withdraw my amendment, and I did so. At no time was I trying to go against the wishes of the County Commission or the residents of Flagler County.
This all took place as I put the bill on my agenda in the Regulated Industries Committee to hold its meeting before a committee vote. The meeting was only scheduled for 90 minutes, and, in the Senate, we cannot extend that time. I cannot control which members want to speak or debate on my committee, and some bills take longer than others.
Still, with 40 minutes left in my committee, we started on the vacation rental bill, and I made it a point to call every person from Flagler to speak, knowing it would take away from others that traveled to speak as well. Although they represented only one of 67 counties, Flagler residents took up over 25% of the allotted time stating their case.
A motion was made to vote time-certain on the bill, and we had to end public comment. Because of the limited time, no one on my committee decided to debate to give deference to the bill sponsor to close on his bill. The committee voted 7-3 to approve this measure with myself being in opposition.
Today I am still the only Republican senator who has broken party line to vote against this bill for my community.
We are still in the preliminary steps, with weeks to go before the bill could go to go to the Senate floor for a chance to become law.
I have always fought for local control and will continue to do so. I will continue to fight until my local elected officials tell me otherwise.
Travis Hutson represents District 7, which includes Flagler County, in the Florida Senate.