Key West is looking for an answer after Florida overturns a local vote on cruise ship restrictions


Key West residents will see how the island community should respond next week after Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law overturning a local vote restricting cruise ship operations at city ports late Tuesday. I have a chance to say.

The city council scheduled a special meeting shortly on July 6, after DeSantis signed a controversial transport bill (SB 1194), including targeting Key West’s vote. The new law prohibits local voting initiatives that limit maritime commerce, including vessel size and place of origin.

“The Commission will hear from the Legal Department and seek out the best way to move forward,” the city said on its website.

In November, Key West voters approved three voting initiatives combined to limit the size of cruise ships and the number of passengers who can visit the city daily. Each referendum received at least 60 percent of support.

Arlo Haskell, the treasurer of Key West’s Safer and Cleaner Ship Commission, which promoted the referendum, said his group was exploring options, including going to court.

“There seems to be less and less respect for the democratic process. Something like voting is becoming more difficult in many parts of the country,” Haskell said. “Here we see that even if you vote, it can be thrown away. It’s basically a disappointment as an American.”

Of the 94 bills DeSantis signed the law late Tuesday, the transport bill was approved on the final day of the 2021 legislative assembly. The port issue was addressed in a wide range of shipping packages approved 21-17 in the Senate and 75-40 in the House of Representatives.

Keys’ representative Islamorada Republican Rep. Jim Mooney opposed the proposal, arguing that cruise ships were causing water turbidity and adversely affecting fisheries and ecosystems.

“It’s my job to protect the Florida Keys ecosystem, and that’s what I’m trying to do,” Mooney said in a housefloor debate on April 28.

However, proponents of the bill argued that Key West residents were not motivated by environmental issues, but were trying to make the community a destination for more exclusive and wealthy people.

In March, North Fort Myers Republican Rep. Spencer Roach, a key supporter of Key West’s vote, should not get part of the federal coronavirus funding the city heads to the port for a referendum. Tweeted.

“Cockroaches have asked us to send a $ 260 million Fed stimulus to a port in Florida that was hit hard by the loss of the cruise ship industry,” Roach tweeted. “I ask my colleagues to vote against the funds in the jurisdiction that bans cruise ships, because they obviously don’t need income. Yes, look at the city of Key West.”

The Florida Port Pilots Association, which upheld the law, said it was important that local voting initiatives did not restrict commerce at the port.

“Marine commerce has a wide impact on the lives of Floridians throughout the state, allowing the free flow of goods and services to all regions, not just those of specific ports,” said Ben. Bosie said: statement. “Given the importance of the state as a whole, it is most important that maritime commerce is not restricted or regulated by local voting initiatives.”

Cockroaches also claimed on the house floor that the state had a legal responsibility to keep the harbor open for business.

“What we are saying is that Florida must respect their commitment under the (US) Constitution that it does not restrict people and commerce from entering this port,” Roach said. Told. “A group of 10,000 people can’t close Key West Port and hold Florida hostage to $ 90 million in general income.”

The 2020 referendum was opposed by a port operator who urged Congress to overturn the vote.

John Wells, chairman of Caribe Nautical Services, which provides maritime services in and near Key West, said only 18 of the 287 vessels booked on the 2022 cruise meet the referendum size criteria. Said.

The Florida Port Council objected that previous versions of the bill were too broad. However, in a news release Wednesday, the port “remains under local control” under a bill signed by DeSantis.

“The pandemic has proved how important Florida’s local port is to Florida’s economy. Thousands of cruise-related employees are still resigning and cruise ships are still unable to navigate, so the local port It is important that our ability to do business and create opportunities for economic development is not further limited, “said Michael Rubin, interim president and CEO of the Florida Port Council. In a prepared statement.

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