Key West preemption bill delayed as it pulls into final House destination

But sponsors say the legislation is not sunk yet.

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.

The bill (SB 426) would override voter-approved referendums prohibiting large vessels from docking in Key West.

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.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].

One comment

  • Joe Longo

    April 26, 2021 at 5:38 pm

    I noticed that not one of the lobbyists that are trying to limit cruise ships derive one penny from them. Not to mention the lost income to the city and all the downtown businesses that have a direct relationship to number of passengers. I can”t find any narrative that gives the downtown businesses a chance to voice their opinion. I can tell you that they are on the edge of their seat once again as the Mayor and her out of town cronies try to put another slap on the face of downtown business.

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