Just when you think something is a done deal, someone goes and puts a wrench in it.
We reported over the summer that, due to various health and ecological reasons, Key West had planned to put a referendum on its November ballot that would limit cruise ships that could call on the city’s port. The ballot was voted on November 3, 2020, and more than 60% of Key West voters said yes to the three measures, which meant that, essentially, it would get a whole lot more difficult to go to the island that’s the southernmost point in the continental U.S.
But now that’s up for debate.
A state senator in Florida, who is not from Key West, is pushing for a bill that would ban local communities from regulating cruise ports. You can read the bill, which was filed earlier this month, in its entirety here.
As per Miami-based WLRN, the legislation presented by State Senator Jim Boyd would ban local governments from imposing restrictions on the size and types of vessels entering Florida’s 15 major seaports. The bill’s wording would also ensure that the ruling would be retroactive, thereby making the Key West citizens’ vote useless if the bill were to pass. From the bill:
Any provision of a county or municipal charter, ordinance, resolution, regulation, or policy that is preempted by this act and that existed before, on, or after the effective date of this act is void.
State Representative Jim Mooney represents the Florida Keys. He says that his community deserves the right to “govern whether or not cruise ships should be regulated or not.” Key West City Manager Greg Veliz agreed, saying that a large percentage of their community voted for those ordinances which are now at risk and they “…need to at least protect the city’s right to govern whether or not cruise ships should be regulated or not.”
However Boyd’s bill is apparently looking at it from an economic point of view:
Florida seaports currently generate nearly 900,000 direct and indirect jobs and contribute $117.6 billion in economic value to the state through cargo and cruise activities, accounting for approximately 13 percent of Florida’s gross domestic product and $4.2 billion in state and local taxes.
The economics of cruising are admittedly big business in the large ports such as Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa. But Key West? Not so much:
Cruise ship passengers make up 50% of all tourists in Key West but only 8% of all tourist spending.
Cruise ship passengers spend an average of only $32 in Key West vs. $550 by all other tourists. It takes 17 cruise ship passengers to match the spending of 1 non-cruise tourist.
Boyd is a Republican representing the 71st district in Bradenton, which is just SSE of Tampa. Bradenton itself is landlocked and has no cruise ports. Nearby Tampa does but is not part of his district.
Florida’s legislative session will begin in early March. The bill will need approval by Florida’s Senate and House in order to pass.
If the bill were to pass, I wonder if Key West could just choose not to have contracts with the cruise companies that specialize in larger cruise ships (i.e., Disney, Carnival, etc.). I mean, that seems to be what this port will be doing; I wonder if Key West could do something similar, but in their case only contract with cruises with smaller ships?
I guess time (and legislation) will tell.
Feature Photo: pixabay
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary