By David Pendered
Former state Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers announced Tuesday he’s leading a new battle after his years championing charter schools in the Georgia Legislature – fighting “illegal short term rentals,” such as Airbnb, on behalf of the hotel association he leads.
Rogers served in the House then Senate as a Republican from Woodstock until December 2012, when he stepped down from office. On Tuesday, he displayed the type of fiery language in assaulting all brands of the sharing platform that propelled him to the top echelon of the state’s upper chamber:
- “These Big Tech rental platforms are invoking a loophole in a federal law to snub their noses at local government leaders across the country, while continuing to profit from illegal business transactions.”
Rogers in January was named president and CEO of American Hotel & Lodging Association, a trade group representing the range from major hotel chains to bed and breakfasts. Rogers took the job after serving as president and CEO of the Asian American Hotel Owners Assoc., which represents hotel owners.
The AHLA is supporting legislation filed in Congress under the name, “Protecting Local Authority and Neighborhoods Act.” Two Republicans have co-sponsor House Resolution 4232, which was filed by a Democrat from Hawaii, Rep. Ed Case, for the purpose of amending the Communications Act of 1934, “to ensure the ability to enforce State and local law relating to leasing and renting of real property, and for other purposes.”
Rogers and the AMLA portray the legislation as clamping down on “Big Tech rental platforms.” Rogers brings his own zest to the campaign:
- “For far too long, these Big Tech short-term rental platforms have been hiding behind this antiquated law in order to bully and threaten legal action against local elected officials who are simply trying to protect their residents from illegal rentals that are destroying neighborhoods….
- “From an industry perspective, we simply want platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway to abide by the same laws that the hotel industry adheres to as well as every other law-abiding business, from main street in small towns to central business districts in major cities. Congress should not allow Big Tech rental platforms to operate above the law.”
The AHLA campaign unveiled Tuesday follows a traditional pattern in efforts to influence public opinion – conduct a survey, release results and call for action.
Results of the opinion survey at the heart of the new campaign shows that three of four respondents oppose “loopholes” in federal law that enable the sharing platforms to skirt local laws that seek to block what are called “illegal rentals.”
This is the first paragraph in the statement. The word, “Americans” was not defined and the survey results released do not provide granular information on respondents’ views. The margin of error was plus/minus 2 percent in a topline poll conducted Aug. 27 through Aug. 29 by Morning Consult, a national polling firm:
- “Americans overwhelmingly support amending federal law to remove loopholes used by short-term rental sites, like Airbnb and HomeAway, to avoid having to comply with local laws enacted by cities and other localities across the country. Three in four Americans (76 percent) believe short-term rental sites should be held accountable for complying with local laws, and 73 percent support an amendment to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to stop companies, like Airbnb and HomeAway, from invoking the federal law to avoid compliance with state and local ordinances….”
Sharing platforms may have started out a decade ago as a step above a hostel, but their growth rate has been exponential – though the largest, Airbnb, is not a public company bound to financial disclosure regulations.
Airbnb contends that it helps plan travel accommodations for more than 500,000 companies.
Meantime, Airbnb now offers packages for igloos in Finland, Thai tattoos, and – as of Tuesday – booking deals with Atlas Obscura for its unusual travel experiences. In advance of Hurricane Dorian, Airbnb offered free temporary housing for evacuees and rescue workers from Aug. 28 through Sept. 16 in Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and seven southeastern states, including Georgia. It did the same last year during the fires in California.