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Mayor, manager recognized for Longboat Key advocacy

Florida's legislative session ended on April 30.

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  • | 2:32 p.m. May 13, 2021
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Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer and Mayor Ken Schneier earned recognition Thursday morning for advocating on behalf of the town during the Florida legislative session.

Harmer and Schneier each received the Florida League of Cities Home Rule Hero Award during Thursday’s ManaSota League of Cities meeting inside the chambers of Longboat Key’s Town Hall. 

“I think it’s a team effort,” Harmer said. “The whole legislative session is so active with bills being proposed, being amended, moving forward, not moving forward, and so it takes a lot of eyes and ears on it.”

Harmer received his award in person. Schneier was out of town.

“I was invited to participate in what was called a practitioners group, and so we would have calls every Friday with a group of city managers around the state,” Harmer said. “We would work with the Florida League of Cities and the Florida City and County Management Association staff to review all the bills that may impact local government.”

Other area leaders who won the award include Sarasota City Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch, Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy, Anna Maria City Commissioner Carol Carter, Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie, Holmes Beach Commission Chair Jim Kihm, North Port Mayor Jill Luke and North Port Commissioner Debbie McDowell.

Florida League of Cities Field Advocacy Director Scott Dudley presented the awards. He explained what the Home Rule Hero Award entails.

“We ask people to get involved in the legislative process,” Dudley said. “We ask them to stay in touch with their legislators, make phone calls, do all that, and then [there are] some folks that go way above and beyond.”

On Thursday morning, Dudley provided an update on the end of the 2021 Florida legislative session. Specifically, he mentioned:

  • How Senate Bill 522 died, which would have given the state sole authority over short-term rentals properties.
  • The possibility of House Bill 403 taking effect on July 1. The bill would prohibit local governments from taking certain actions relating to the licensure and regulation of home-based businesses. The Florida Senate has requested for the House to return the bill.
  • Money local governments could see as part of the federal American Rescue Plan Act. The town of Longboat Key is still reviewing the guidance from the U.S. Department of Treasury as to how much money it could receive and how soon it could receive the funds.

“On Longboat Key, I think it’s all about quality of life and how do we maintain the quality of life on the island?” Harmer said. “The home-based business one is a concern for us. The short-term rentals have been a concern every year.”

Dudley and Harmer acknowledged similar short-term rental legislation will likely come up in future legislative sessions.

“We feel good that at least for this year, the additional regulations did not proceed for the short-term rentals and do not impact us this year, but it’s something to still pay attention to,” Harmer said. “The home-based business [bill] is still to be determined. It’s not signed by the governor yet. We’re still all trying to figure out what would that mean to us on the island?”

In previous years, town officials have lobbied Tallahassee lawmakers to vote against bills that would challenge local governments’ authority to regulate short-term rentals.

Longboat Key does not allow short-term rentals of less than 30 days in residential neighborhoods. The town does have exceptions for certain bed and breakfast establishments that have existed for decades.


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