A senator from Bradenton, Florida filed a bill late Tuesday that, if passed, will void Key West’s newly approved cruise ship limitations.

Republican Senator Jim Boyd has proposed Senate Bill 426 that states, “a local government may not restrict or regulate commerce in the seaports of this state,…including, but not limited to, regulating or restricting a vessel’s type or size, source or type of cargo, or number, origin, or nationality of passengers. All such matters are expressly preempted to the state….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.”

Key West City Attorney Shawn Smith alerted city commissioners to the bill’s filing just before Tuesday evening’s city commission meeting adjourned shortly after 8 pm. 

There was no discussion of the bill by the commissioners, although Mayor Teri Johnston asked Smith where it had originated. Smith told her it came out of Manatee County on Florida’s west coast. 

In order to become law, Senate Bill 426 will need to be approved by the state senate as well as the Florida House of Representatives. No votes have been taken and no legislative discussions have occurred since the bill’s filing on Tuesday, Jan. 5.

The bill further states, “…allowing each local government in which a Florida seaport is located to impose its own requirements on the maritime commerce conducted in that port could result in abrupt changes in the supply lines bringing goods into and out of this state, thus disrupting Florida’s economy and threatening the public’s health, safety, and welfare, and allowing each local government … to impose its own requirements on the maritime commerce conducted in that port could reasonably be expected to suppress such commerce and potentially drive it out of the port and out of the state in search of a more consistent and predictable operating environment, thus disrupting Florida’s  economy and threatening the public’s health, safety, and welfare, and…allowing each local government in which a Florida seaport is located to impose its own requirements on the maritime commerce conducted in that port could result in abrupt changes in vessel traffic, frustrating the multi-year planning process for all Florida seaports and the assumptions and forecasts underlying federal and state financing of port improvement projects, and.., in light of these negative impacts, federal and and state governments must be relied upon to adopt uniform regulations governing seaport operations….”

Key West voters in November approved changes to the city’s charter that would require significant reductions to the number, size and capacity of cruise ships that visit Key West.

Key West’s Committee for Safer Cleaner Ships led the charge to reduce Key West’s cruise ship industry, while groups like Keep the Cruise Ships in Key West and Protect Our Jobs campaigned against the ballot initiatives in an effort to keep the city’s cruise ship revenue and industry.

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Restaurant owner Bill Lay, who launched Keep the Cruise Ships in Key West, had this to say about Sen. Boyd’s proposed bill:

“Since March, Keep the Cruise Ships has been of the opinion that a compromise would be in the best interest of our community, to no avail,” Lay said. “We spoke, we attended and most importantly we were willing to take the time and effort to mend the obvious divide that smothered our community. In an effort to mitigate the economic shortfall to our workforce and small businesses we reached out to our Mayor, again to no avail. The response we received was less than willing to sit with us to achieve a common ground at the time. What happened in the past is exactly that, the past. In an effort to help unite our community, we are willing to have those same meetings again. Our message has not wavered. This is about people, hardworking people who were directly affected by the stoppage, because we care.
“Now is the time to set differences aside and begin to work together to achieve a compromise for the betterment of all. This is not about a certain part of the community this is about ALL of the community. Let’s be part of the solution and work together.”

Stay tuned to keysweekly.com as the story develops.

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