LD17 delegation laments rental bill defeat SanTan Sun News

LD17 delegation laments rental bill defeat

May 29th, 2021 STSN Staff
LD17 delegation laments rental bill defeat
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By PAUL MARYNIAK
Executive Editor

Sen. J.D. Mesnard suggested the Arizona League of Cities and Towns shares as much blame for the defeat of a short-term rental regulatory bill as those who oppose any regulation of such homes at all.

Mesnard, joined by his Legislative District 17 delegation colleagues Reps. Jeff Weninger and Jennifer Pawlik, spoke about that defeat and other legislative issues in a virtual roundtable May 14 hosted by the Chandler Chamber of Commerce.

Pawlik and Weninger both supported Mesnard’s SB 1379, which tried to prevent those rentals from turning into rowdy party houses by allowing local governments to set occupancy limits and insurance requirements on the owners who lease out their homes through websites like Airbnb and VRBO.

Pawlik said she felt the House defeated it because too many legislators saw it as “an industry bill” while Weninger put the blame for its defeat on the League of Cities.

Scottsdale Rep. John Kavanagh had pushed a competing bill in the House that went much further, restoring much of the authority to cities and towns that previous legislatures and Gov. Doug Ducey stripped away in recent years.

The Arizona League of Cities and Towns, which represents the interests of most East Valley communities, said Mesnard’s bill did not go far enough to resolve the issues brought up by local governments.

On the other hand, short-term rental owners and some House members opposed any regulation, contending that people had a right to use their own property in any way they see fit.

At the time the bills were being considered, Nick Ponder, the League’s legislative director, said Mesnard’s measure failed to make enough substantive changes to the state’s current laws.

The League was not advocating for outlawing short-term rentals, Ponder added, but cities and towns want more autonomy to control these properties.

During the Chamber roundtable, Mesnard criticized that kind of thinking.

“I think of all the bills I’ve ever run, that probably failed the worst of any,” said Mesnard, whose measure passed by a 27-3 vote but got clobbered in the House, 43-17.

“I want to clarify that there were as many folks – or nearly as many folks – who voted against it because they don’t support any regulation on short-term rentals,” Mesnard said. “I think there was a belief that all folks universally voted no because they wanted to do more regulation, but that’s not the case.”

“The cities want full regulatory zoning authority,” he continued. “They want to say, what can be where, and how many and all of that – which I think is a bridge too far. And they did oppose the bill because they want that authority. My frustration with that is that I think the bill would have done some serious good. I think it would have addressed the most important of the issues.

“Would it have addressed every issue? No, but you don’t sacrifice the 90 percent for the 10 percent unless it’s some sort of power issue. And so that was very frustrating. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future but that was a disappointment.”

Pawlik said she and Weninger had pushed Mesnard’s bill in the House but to no avail.

“When it came over to the House, both Representative Weninger and I were advocating for the bill because we know how much it means to our community to have some regulation with short-term rentals,” she said, stating “the bill failed miserably.”

She added, “That’s a bill that seems to be dead,” though she added it “could always come back before the session ends.”

Weninger said he gave “an impassioned speech” to his colleagues for Mesnard’s bill and that the outcome “was really disappointing.”

“It essentially was the League of Cities on one side, who was influence,” he said. “Now, like JD said, a lot of people just don’t want any regulation, but on the other side, it was the influence of the League of Cities saying, ‘it’s not good enough.’”

Weninger said Mesnard’s bill would have addressed the short-term rentals that become party houses and neighborhood nuisances.

“This bill fixed the party house and you could have literally taken someone’s license away,” he said.

The legislators discussed a variety of other issues, including the proposal now making its way through the Legislature for a flat 2.5 percent state income tax.

Municipalities contend they will lose millions of dollars in shared tax revenue if a flat tax is imposed.

“We do think that there needs to be some major tax reform to really help us compete against these other states,” Weninger said.

But Pawlick said, “One concern that I have that I’ve heard from our cities is that it will really impact the shared revenue that the cities operate their budgets on to the tune of almost 30 percent of their budget. And I’m very concerned that that will impact the cities’ ability to pay for public safety.”

Mesnard noted that the state’s current surplus is four times the size of any state budget surplus in Arizona’s history.

And he boasted of the tax reform’s potential impact.

“I am optimistic,” he said. “We’re going to do something pretty big, pretty spectacular. Actually, something that will get us national recognition.”

He also said, “I’ve spoken with the mayors and others about the impact on the cities and we’re going to do what we can to mitigate that.”

But he noted that the state’s budget surplus now totals $12 billion – “which is outrageous.”

He also said “the cities also are sitting on some money” from the measure that legalized recreational pot “and that will also be leading to more revenue for public safety.”

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