A controversial bill preempting a Key West referendum regulating cruise dockings was taken off a House calendar Monday. But sponsors believe issues with the legislation can still be resolved by the end of Session.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, voters in the tourist-rich community voted to prohibit ships with 1,300 or more passengers, and limit visitors off ships to 1,500 cruise passengers per day.
State lawmakers expressed frustration at a local regulation that could impact the entire cruise industry. Rep. Spencer Roach, a North Fort Myers Republican who previously sponsored preemption bills including one on a Kew West sunscreen ban, has spearheaded an effort to legislatively override the referendums.
The Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Jim Boyd, a Bradenton Republican, passed in the upper chamber last week on a largely party line vote.
But Roach said staff analysts found technical issues with the legislation as written. The bill was postponed from a second reading on the House floor.
“We are doing a deep dive and analysis,” said Roach, who remained confident the bill would pass.
Boyd also said the bill was “not dead.”
But Roach acknowledged there’s little time to sort out any remaining issues with the bill. He wants the bill to come back to the floor on Tuesday.
“If it’s not on second reading tomorrow, we’ll be racing the clock,” he said.
The legislation must be passed by Friday or it will be dead this Legislative Session.
The House and Senate also have not yet agreed to a budget, which Roach said will dominate the rest of the week.
Of note, the Miami Herald today reported that Key West developer Mark Walsh, who fought against the cruise referendums, just donated $995,000 to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ political committee.