Despite the efforts of state Sen. Larry Taylor, a bill designed to strip local control from communities in determining the best ways to manage short-term rentals passed this week with a vote of 22-9.
Senate Bill 451 is bad for residents of Galveston, Galveston County and all Texans.
A similar bill from the House, HB 2551 is in committee and pending. Both need to be stopped or altered to head off disastrous outcome for property owners and those in favor of local control of such issues.
As we have argued before, the problem with the bills has nothing to do with the pros and cons of short-term rentals. The problem is about who gets to decide in the cities and towns of Texas, whether the pros outweigh the cons. That’s how it is now. Local people get to decide what at its core is a zoning issue. These bills would end that.
Hidden under the disguise of “individual property rights” the bills represent a plain, old-fashioned money play. Both bills reek of the motivations of big business and result in the poking a sharp stick in the eyes of local governments and residents. It feels “un-Texan.”
The bills are being pushed by organizations that stand to benefit financially from accelerated growth in the short-term rental industry, such as VRBO, Airbnb and Austin-based HomeAway.
The bills aim to clear the way of any obstacles and create a world in which short-term rentals can operate unrestricted. Disruptions to neighbors affected by short-term rentals are not the proponents’ concern.
To his credit, Taylor, a Galveston Republican, proposed an amendment seeking to exempt Galveston from SB 451, arguing that the island was unique and had its own fair local regulations to handle short-term rentals.
Taylor’s amendment would have applied only to communities that border the Gulf of Mexico, had pre-existing regulations on short-term rental housing and had adopted resolutions saying that tourism is the central component of the economy of the city.
Unfortunately, Taylor’s amendment failed, 18-13. Similar amendments filed to exempt Austin and San Antonio from the bill also failed.
Taylor, also to his credit, voted against the bill’s final passage.
Taylor knows the Gulf Coast. And we’re sure those representing Austin and San Antonio know their communities as well.
The author of SB 451 is state Sen. Kelly Hancock, a North Richland Hills Republican, who represents a community more than 300 miles from the Gulf Coast.
What about HR 2551? That was authored by Flower Mound Republican Tan Parker, another Dallas area representative.
Do we really want Dallas telling all of Texas how to govern local communities? We think not.
These two bills are bad for Texans, as well as residents of Galveston, and should be stopped. Let local governments and the residents across Texas decide what is best for their communities — not two representatives from Dallas.
• Leonard Woolsey