NASHVILLE - State lawmakers Tuesday delayed a bill targeting Nashville's restrictions on short-term rentals but still issued a warning to cities considering such restrictive new rules.
Republican lawmakers in the House narrowed their focus to only focus on Nashville on Monday. The bill had first been drafted to be applicable statewide, then narrowed to the state's four biggest cities, and then further to only Nashville.
"The bill was always about Nashville," said Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, the Senate sponsor.
That move in the House on Monday was criticized by many on both sides of the aisle for different reasons.
But on Tuesday in the Senate Finance Committee, Stevens said he didn't have the support in that committee to move the bill forward and chose to delay it to 2018, ending the legislature's effort to intervene in Nashville's efforts to regulate short-term rentals for the remainder of 2017.
Stevens attempted to amend the bill to mirror the House version that only targeted Nashville — which some legislators speculated to be unconstitutional — but said there wasn't support for that narrow of a focus. The bill would have prevented any phase-out from residential areas of non-owner-occupied rentals.
"(In) different parts of the state, it's a very difficult issue," Stevens said.
But Sen. Steven Dickerson, R-Nashville, was among a few on the committee who warned cities to be "even-handed" in their policies going forward.
Stevens said he was glad to hear that Middle Tennessee senators — Dickerson and Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin — side with him on cities not enforcing outright bans, which he said would only create a black market of rentals that couldn't be stopped.
Stevens also issued a similar threat.
"I think the General Assembly at least gave some indication that any overreaching (ban) by the Metro Council could result in repercussions next year if it steps over the boundary that the state's unwilling to go beyond," Stevens said.
After nearly 90 minutes of tense debate on the floor of the House on Monday night, an amended version of the bill that only focuses on Nashville’s policies was passed on a 53-35 vote. Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, said the tax collection provisions in the bill apply statewide.
Sexton said he wasn't frustrated with the result in the Senate, and there are two chambers for a reason.
"It is not easy to pass legislation and sometimes the House and Senate move at a different pace. That's what happened on STRPs," he said.
The amended bill, which is still alive and could be easily renewed in 2018, would keep in place current policies and regulations that exist in Nashville, but would have ended an effort by the Metro Council to phase out non-owner occupied rentals — known as Type 2 rentals — that have drawn steep opposition from residents.
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Those residents, and most of the Nashville legislative delegation, have said the properties often draw complaints from permanent residents who share tales of booze-fueled late-night parties that affect quality of life and property values in areas around the properties.
“This is not a property rights issue, this is a quality of life issue,” said Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, who spoke against the bill at length on Monday.
Defenders of the legislation and issue say property owners can do what they want with their properties, and the state legislature has given incentives to large hotels and motels to build and develop property elsewhere in Nashville.
Rep. Tim Wirgau, R-Buchanan, another rural lawmaker, sponsored the amendment that narrowed the bill to Nashville, and said Monday he didn’t want to “ruin an industry” that contributes some $66 million to state revenue, according to his figures.
He said he amended the bill to only focus on Nashville because the other three big cities in Tennesssee - Knoxville, Memphis and Chattanooga - are “doing it right.”
The bill has been one of the most heavily lobbied bills of the session. Several lobbyists hired by Airbnb, the principal company and driver of the lobby effort, were called out from the House floor on Monday, who were sitting in the gallery.
Reach Jake Lowary at 931-237-1583 or follow him on Twitter @JakeLow