Honolulu City Councilman Ron Menor today joined Mayor Kirk Caldwell in calling on Gov. David Ige to veto a controversial bill that requires Airbnb, VRBO and other vacation rental hosting platforms to collect taxes from those operators who advertise on their sites.
Like other opponents of vacation rentals, the city officials say that having the hosting platforms collect the taxes provides a shield that would make it more difficult for the city to collect information about the vacation rental operators it wants to regulate. Two bills approved last week by the City Council and now on Caldwell’s desk would impose tighter rules on the hosting platforms and operators.
Ige is slated to decide today what he will do with Senate Bill 1292, as well as other measures from this year’s state Legislature for which he has not yet taken action.
“The bill would likely effectively preempt effective regulation of hosting platforms,” said Menor, who chairs the Council Zoning, Planning and Housing Committee. “This bill legitimizes illegal activity by allowing hosting platforms to continue to provide booking services for short-term rentals whether they are legal or not, as long as the online platforms serve as tax collection agents.”
What’s more, Menor said, the Senate bill would “allow hosting platforms to continue concealing the identity of hosts and make their listings confidential and non-disclosable.”
Last week, state Attorney General Clare Connors’ office told state Senate Ways and Means Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz that the Senate bill does not legalize thousands of vacation rentals in noncompliance with county land use laws or bar the counties from enforcing such laws against the owners of such units.
Ige said last week that he vetoed a bill similar to the Senate measure in 2016 “because I felt that it would hide and shield and facilitate more illegal rentals and keep them out of view because the platform would insert itself in between.”
But Menor said the AG opinion’s “utilization of the words ‘land use’ is too restrictive and does not properly encompass the actual business practices of hosting platforms.”