One of the better-known quotes about politics is attributed to Otto Von Bismark. It had to do with sausages and laws. Recently, scholars have found a much earlier quote from which Bismark likely borrowed. It is attributed to John Godfrey Saxe in 1869, who was a poet of the time. His quote was, “Laws … like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.”
What brought the bard to minds this week is Florida House Bill 773. It was a fairly straightforward attempt by the state to preempt local laws pertaining to vacation rental properties. On its face, the law seems to attempt to standardize these laws from community to community. It strips away all local regulation passed since June 1, 2011, and you have to wonder how that exact date came about. But it then allows localities to make new laws providing “such regulation applies uniformly to all residential properties without regard to whether the property is used as a vacation rental …”
Then comes the “however” clause: “However, a local law, ordinance or regulation may not prohibit vacation rentals or regulate the duration or frequency of vacation rentals.”
If that sounds to you like it’s saying you can do anything you want to regulate short-term vacation rentals other than regulating them, we’re on the same page.
Cities and counties all oppose this new preemption of local law and rightly so. Airbnbs have a different effect on Philips Highway in Jacksonville than Nelmar Terrace in St. Augustine. Thus, we would imagine, is why local control is most always preferable to Tallassee control. And we’ll give you a concrete example of how bad state control would be.
In order, we assume, to make this bill more puritanically palatable, two amendments have been added, with support of the original House Sponsor, Republican Rep. Mike LaRosa, of St. Cloud.
Republican Rep. Jay Fant’s amendment would require sexual offenders who stay in vacation rentals to notify local sheriff’s offices at least 48 hours before their stay. It would also mandate vacation rental owners give 24-hour notice to all residents within a 1,000-foot radius that a sex fiend is in the 'hood.
We’re not certain how that would be accomplished. Perhaps a neighborhood “crier,” or circling the block with a speaker attached to the top of a car.
Nor would we assume that sexual predators would volunteer this information up front. And there is no language attached to the bill that would penalize them if they were not in a contrite and confessing mood at check-in.
But that’s OK, because Republican Rep. David Santiago has a plan and another amendment. This one puts the hammer down on deviants. It would require a hotel to ask guests specifically at check-in if they are, in fact, a sexual predator.
This is true:
“Would you like two queen beds, a view of the pool — and, by the way, do you happen to stalk children?”
Republican Rep. Cary Pigman questioned, in committee, just how that “would work.” He noted that he, his wife and children would have to answer that question when they checked into a room at the Magic Kingdom. “While I laud your efforts, I get bogged down in how we would execute that without making Florida become the weirdest state in the world to come to and get a hotel room.”
He is too kind.
Sponsor Rep. LaRosa, for his part, told The News Service of Florida that he “absolutely” supports the measure and may up the ante by adding language that allows rental homeowners and hoteliers “to refuse to accept sexual predators as guests.”
This, again, presupposes predators come clean on their history and appetites prior to unloading the luggage from the trunk. And that’s the kind of “oversight” the state wants for the short-term rental issue?
We’ll take local control any day.