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Beacon Hill Update: Air B&Bs, Transportation Taxing, Credit Reports, Flaggers, & More

Planning to Rent on Airbnb, HomeAway or VRBO? 

The State Will Want Its Share

   Senate 30-8, approved a bill that extends the state’s current 5.7 percent hotel and motel tax and up to a 6 percent local option room occupancy tax to short-term rentals offered by Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO while leaving the regulation of these rentals including registration, licensing and inspections up to local cities and towns.

  The measure also allows local cities and towns to impose a local impact fee of up to 3 percent on operators who rent out two or more professionally-managed short-term rental units within a municipality.

  Other provisions create a central state registry of short-term rentals and require that a city or town dedicate no less than 35 percent of revenue generated from the new local option fee to either affordable housing or local infrastructure needs.

   The measure was approved by both branches and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker who offered amendments to it. The Legislature never acted on the amendments and the bill remains in limbo.

Exemption For Short-Term Airbnb Rentals Fails

   Senate 11-26, rejected an amendment that would exempt from the new short-term rental tax people who rent out their unit for 21 or fewer days per year.

No Discrimination Allowed at Airbnbs

   Senate 37-0, approved an amendment that prohibits discrimination in short-term rentals based on race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, genetic information, ancestry or status as a veteran.

Talk About Changing Your Mind

   On May 22, 2018 State Senate voted  14-24, to reject a sales tax holiday and then on July 25, 2018) reversed themselves voting 31-6 to approved an amendment allowing consumers to buy most products that cost under $2,500 during a two-day weekend sales tax holiday in August without paying the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax. 

Should Neighborhoods Be Allowed To Form Districts Requring Residents To Pay For Improvements? 

   After the House passed a similar bill, the State Senate followed suit, voting 22-15 to approve a local option bill allowing a city or town to authorize the creation of community benefit district which would permit owners of contiguous property in a city or town to form a district and require property owners to pay for additional services, improvements, events and other projects and activities within the district. The districts would be operated by a nonprofit board.

Special Taxing Authority For Transportation Projects

   Senate 27-10, approved an amendment that would allow cities and towns, with the approval of local voters on a ballot question, to increase taxes on payroll, sales, property, fuel or vehicle excise tax. The funds could be used only for transportation-related purposes including maintaining, repairing, planning, operating, improving and constructing public transportation and transit systems, including roads, bridges, bikeways and pedestrian pathways.

Credit Reports

The House approved a new version of a bill that would prohibit consumer reporting agencies, like Equifax, Experian and TransUnion from charging fees for freezing and unfreezing a person’s credit information. Under current law, companies can and have charged up to $5 per freeze or unfreeze. 

   A freeze makes the report inaccessible until the consumer unfreezes it. Since banks and other lenders require access to the borrower’s credit report before giving a loan, this greatly reduces identity thieves from getting a loan or credit in another individual’s name.

   The proposal gained momentum following the 2017 crisis when, from May to July, the personal information including names, social security numbers, addresses, driver’s licenses and credit card numbers of 145 million Americans was stolen from Equifax’s systems. Equifax didn’t reveal the breach until September and consumers lost valuable time to act.

   Other provisions of the bill prohibit businesses from obtaining a consumer’s credit report without obtaining written, verbal or electronic consent from the consumer; and improve notices and consumer information the companies are required to give.

What Ever Happened to Reform of Those 

Road-Construction-Flagger Jobs?

    According to a report “Whatever happened to flagger reform?” by the Bay State’s Pioneer Institute’s Greg Sullivan and Michael Chieppo, the 2008 law that allows flaggers, instead of police officers, at some construction sites, has not generated any substantial savings which was the primary intent of the law.

  Massachusetts is one of a handful of states that requires that the “prevailing wage” – used to establish hourly pay rates on public construction projects – be set at a level at least equal to rates established by collective bargaining agreements with organized labor in the area. Currently on federally-funded projects, flaggers are paid $43.44 per hour, a rate that is the 13th highest in the nation.

   “The Catch-22 is that since Massachusetts law sets pay at the highest collectively bargained rate in a geographic area, rates for civilian flaggers are effectively set by the rate paid to police performing flagger duties,” said Sullivan.

From Bob Katzen’s Beacon Hill Roll Call News Service. Bob welcomes feedback at

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