Airbnb bill back in limbo

By Katie Stancombe
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – The fate of a short-term rentals bill hangs in the balance after legislators clashed over the legislation Wednesday.

House Representatives voted on the measure, but progress was halted with a vote of 50-46. In order to pass, the bill would have needed just one more vote.

If passed, House Bill 1133 would prevent local governments from banning Airbnb-style rentals in their communities, an issue that has many questioning who should exercise control over these new rental platforms – local municipalities or the larger state government.

This is the second time the bill has failed because of a lack of votes needed to pass. In February, HB 1133 garnered a vote of 49-44, just shy of the necessary 51 in order to move forward.

Author Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, said that the bill is still alive.

“It’s just a matter now of regrouping and seeing if we want to continue down this path or if there’s something else we can do to change a couple of things to make it a better bill,” Lehman said.

Rep. Matthew Lehman, R-Berne, advocates on behalf of House Bill 1133, saying it’s time to embrace the emerging business of short-term rentals. Photo by Katie Stancombe, TheStatehouseFile.com.

Last week, Lehman said that because the committee working on differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill could not come up with ideas to make it workable, he settled for original changes made by the Senate.

That version of the bill was voted on Wednesday and includes a requirement for hosts to purchase insurance, as well as a 180-day limit on how often a home can be rented out per year.

Cities would not be able to use zoning laws as a reason to shut down short-term rentals in their communities, but could still enforce them for noise and safety ordinances. However, the Senate version would allow homeowners’ associations to prohibit short-term rentals.

Rep. Dave Ober, R-Albion, extolled the virtues of home rule and local control before voting in favor of the bill.

“Sometimes they don’t get it right,” Ober said of local governments as he explained his vote.

But opponents of the bill argued that the decision should be left up to local communities, whose needs might differ depending on size, demographics and location.

Rep. Mike Karickhoff, R-Kokomo, is one of 46 legislators that voted against the short-term rentals bill. The representative said he could not support the bill because it seemed unfair. Photo by Katie Stancombe.

Rep. Mike Karickhoff, R-Kokomo, said the issue is not between Republicans or Democrats, but rather urban and rural communities.

 “I think this is an industry that needs to be regulated,” Karickhoff said. “To allow 180 days in a single year to be rented in an urban or suburban area, it isn’t fair.”

A previous draft would have given local communities the ability to increase the number of days hosts can rent out their homes, and would have removed the insurance requirement.

Lehman said that sometimes the process just takes time, but he doesn’t know where the bill will go from here.

“I do think there is an emerging technology and we need to be able to embrace it,” Lehman said. “If not today, we will deal with this.”

Katie Stancombe is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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