House vote not yet scheduled

The Florida Senate on Thursday passed a bill that voids Key West's vote to significantly limit cruise ships in the island city. CONTRIBUTED

The Florida Senate on Thursday passed the bill that voids Key West’s initiative to significantly reduce the number of cruise ships that can visit the island city.

Senate Bill 426, entitled “State Preemption of Seaport Regulations,” passed the state senate with a 25 to 14 vote, with one senator not voting. Florida Keys State Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, a Republican, voted against the bill that prohibits Key West from restricting the size, type and capacity of ships that visit its port.

The bill still has to pass the Florida House of Representatives before becoming law, and the House vote has not yet been scheduled, said Arlo Haskell, treasurer of the Key West Committee for Safer Cleaner Ships, which led the charge against large cruise ships.

Sixty-two percent of Key West voters in November supported a local referendum to ban large cruise ships from Key West.

“We’re still working to lobby the House chamber, and are focused on getting the governor to veto it if it passes the House,” Haskell told the Keys Weekly on Thursday following the senate vote.

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary‘s Sanctuary Advisory Council has called an emergency meeting for Tuesday, April 27 to “seek public input on a potential cruise ship resolution before the Florida legislative session concludes on April 30,” sanctuary spokesman Scott Atwell wrote in a press release.  “The advisory council will potentially take action on a resolution urging the Florida legislature to protect valuable and sensitive marine habitats from large cruise ships.”

The press release also specifies, “The Sanctuary Advisory Council is a community-based group of volunteers established to provide advice and recommendations to the superintendent. The opinions and findings of the Council do not necessarily reflect the position of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, or the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.”

Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.