- Associated Press - Monday, March 7, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - Cities and towns could not ban homeowners from hosting short-term rentals on lodging websites like Airbnb under a proposal that received preliminary approval in the Senate on Monday.

The measure expands on Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan to make Arizona a destination for the “sharing economy.”

The proposal by Sen. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, would prevent local governments from banning short-term rentals on vacation and lodging websites such as Airbnb and VRBO.

Lesko said she hasn’t spoken to the governor’s office about the bill, but a lobbyist for Airbnb has.

The provision was added as a last-minute amendment to a bill that makes it easier for property and homeowners to offer short-term rentals.

The bill allows Airbnb and similar websites to collect taxes on behalf of renters - who are expected to pay on their own under current law - and turn them over to the state to be divided up for cities and towns.

Lesko said her intention is to protect homeowners and reduce government bureaucracy. The Arizona Department of Revenue agreed the bill would simplify the tax collection process.

Jim Norton, who lobbies for Airbnb, said during a committee hearing that they want to ensure that their hosts are collecting taxes when they are due.

“As a company (Airbnb) is trying to handle this on behalf of their hosts in a way that will simplify the matter for the hosts and allow the sharing economy to continue,” he said.

The Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association said they support the role of short-term lodging websites, but want to ensure the new law doesn’t provide a loophole for renters with multiple properties, said David Drennon, executive vice president of the association.

Senate Bill 1350 now awaits a formal vote.

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