Bill limiting local control of ports heads to Florida Senate floor

Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 5:48 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAP NEWS/WCJB) - Legislation aimed at undoing three local referendums passed last year in Key West cleared its final committee stop in the Senate Wednesday.

While the legislation may be aimed at the Keys, it would limit the ability of any Florida city or county to regulate their ports.

Key west approved three referendums last year pushing for more environmentally friendly cruise ships and limiting the size and number of cruise ships that could dock in their port.

“Smaller, safer, cleaner ships,” said Captain Will Benson with the National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council.

The goal was to prevent large ships from kicking up sediment and harming coral reefs.

“Everybody who lives in the Florida Keys over the past year without the large cruise ships noticed the waters like a miracle get clearer,” said Arlo Haskell with the Key West Committee for Safer Cleaner Ships.

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But a bill moving through the legislature would undo all three referendums and prevent any other local governments from implementing similar restrictions.

“Some of the smaller boats are actually causing more problem than the bigger boats,” said Senate sponsor Jim Boyd.

The sponsor argues limiting how locals can regulate their ports now, will prevent local restrictions that could potentially harm the state as a whole in the future.

“50 percent of our oil for the State of Florida comes through the port of Tampa. So if a group got together and banned that as a commodity that would come into our port, imagine what that would do not just to the economy, but to statewide transportation,” said Boyd.

The legislation has been supported and opposed by both Democrats and Republicans.

A coalition from Key West that came to the Capitol Wednesday is hoping the Governor will veto the bill.

“To help us bring balance to Key West, to do what’s right for the cruise industry and do what’s right with supporting home rule,” said Benson.

The Governor has a mixed record on home rule.

He’s vetoed legislation the would have prohibited local plastic straw bans, but also signed legislation preempting local sunscreen bans.

The bill still has to clear the Senate Chamber and has one more committee stop in the House.

The Governor has so far been silent on the legislation.

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