House balks at six-hour minimum on motel room rentals (after unanimous Senate approval)

A bill prohibiting rental of motel rooms for less than six hours – passed unanimously in the Senate – failed on the House floor Wednesday with one critic citing the TV show ‘Shark Tank’ in voicing opposition, reports The Tennessean.

The legislation (SB1631), sponsored by Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Old Hickory, would punish businesses that rent rooms for less than six hours by revoking their business license for up to one year. Jernigan said the legislation was aimed at fighting prostitution, human trafficking and drug transactions.

Last year, the Nashville Metro Council voted to ban hotels, motels and other similar establishments from renting rooms on an hourly basis or for any period less than 10 hours.

Rep. Tilman Goins, R-Morristown, said “time and time again” he has had to rent a hotel room for less than six hours, adding he knew Jernigan was seeking to curb prostitution and drug deals. 

“But those things are going to take place anyway,” Goins said.

While expressing opposition to the bill, Goins cited an episode of ‘Shark Tank’, which he said featured an online app that allowed professionals to get a room for a nap in the time when hotel patrons typically check in and out.

The proposal, made in 2017 by a company known as Hotels By Day, ultimately failed to get support from the cast of Shark Tank — a show which allows entrepreneurs chances to pitch their ideas in an effort to secure funding. 

… Jernigan said nothing in his legislation said patrons had to be in a hotel room for six hours, but rather that they needed to pay for a minimum of that time period. 

“What we found was prostitution, opioid use, and human trafficking — and if I have to weigh that versus you having to pay for six hours — I’m going to go with that,” Jernigan said.

Only 38 representatives voted for the bill (with 50 needed for passage) while 45 voted no. The bill passed the Senate 29-0 on March 12 under sponsorship of Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville).

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