Last year, a bill that would prohibit cities and counties from restricting short-term rentals in Nebraska such as Airbnb never got a first-round vote in the Legislature.
This year, Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld introduced his own bill, changing it slightly to address some of the concerns that kept Sen. Tyson Larson's bill from advancing.
Morfeld said his bill (LB756) allows for ordinances and regulations that deal with public health and safety, and does not affect homeowners associations' regulations. And he has proposed an amendment to allow the state tax commissioner to make an agreement with an online hosting platform to collect and pay sales taxes on behalf of rental hosts.
"The big key here is we simply do not want them to be outright prohibited, short-term rentals in general, by the cities. We want them to be able to take care of nuisance properties, take care of properties that may have illegal activity going on, anything like that," Morfeld said.
It was enough to get a positive response in Tuesday's hearing from the Nebraska Lodging and Hotel Association, and neutral testimony from the League of Nebraska Municipalities, both of which had opposed Larson's bill.
No one at the hearing opposed the bill.
Scott Merritt of the Nebraska Lodging and Hotel Association said he would support the bill with the amendment offered to address sales and occupation taxes. He did have concerns about a section that allows taxes to be collected only on accommodation fees, he said.
"We are not opposed to the concept. We are a very free-market oriented group. And we welcome the competition as long as it will be a level platform to work from," Merritt said.
Lincoln has short-term rentals by such online companies as Airbnb and VRBO.
Monisha Merchant, representing Airbnb, said Nebraska had 2,700 hosts in 2017 with 46,000 guest arrivals. Hosts typically earn $4,700 annually from their rentals with 72 percent hosting fewer than 60 nights a year.
A number of Airbnb hosts told the committee about their positive experiences, and how people who rent Airbnb or other short-term rentals tend to stay longer and spend more money in the state. The rentals promote tourism and allow hosts to earn extra spending money.
Samuel Lyon of Lincoln is new to Airbnb. Since July he and his wife have hosted more than 100 guests from 32 states, Canada and Beijing.
"Many of them mention the homey feel that they get when they stay with us," Lyon said. "Some of them are very excited that they can bring their pets with them."
Some like the option of an extended stay; one recent guest had a new job in Lincoln and stayed in four areas of the city for 10 days each to explore neighborhoods.
"It is for these reasons and many others that travelers specifically search for cities that allow Airbnb when they travel," he said.