T.The bill that would reverse Key West’s vote to limit cruise lines took another step forward on Wednesday morning when another Senate committee approved Senate Bill 426, known as the Port Preemption Bill.

The Senate Committee on Community Affairs voted 5: 3 on Wednesday in support of SB 426, which deprives port cities of the power to refuse certain ships based on their size, number of passengers or other characteristics. The bill, tabled by Bradenton Republican Senator Jim Boyd, also specifically repeals any local referendum or election initiative to change a city’s port operations. The bill applies to the four Florida ports that the cities own – Key West, Pensacola, St. Petersburg, and Panama City.

Representatives of several environmental groups, including Surfrider Foundation, Sierra Club and 1,000 friends from Floridaspoke out against the bill at the March 24 meeting, as did lobbyist Josh Aubuchon of Florida Ports for Economic Independence. Aubuchon read a letter from Key West Fishing Capt. Will Benson, a member of the Key West Committee for Safer Cleaning Vessels This led the Key West voter referendum to ban large cruise lines from visiting the island city.

“Every time one of those huge ships comes to Key West, it tears up the ground and chews everything on its way, leaving a trail of bleeding seabed, ”Benson wrote to the committee. “As of 2005, ships calling at Key West have been 45% larger. And there is a lot more of it. We have never had a say in this matter before. When cruise ships first took off When they came they were smaller and rarer and didn’t have the same disaster Environmental impact. But over the years, those who benefited the most wanted more and bigger ships. We never have a say here. The men who put that bill made fortunes As we watched our fish catch decline, our reef died and the channel bottom bled six times a day with six mile long mud flags. There was nothing we could do. These men made a deal with the devil and we were taken away. Then hit COVID. The bleeding stopped with the cruise stopped. “

Senator Jim Boyd of Bradenton, Fla. Is promoting Senate Bill 426, which, if passed, will remove restrictions on cruise lines in Key West and keep ships of all sizes busy. CONTRIBUTION

After the environmental opposition spoke, committee member Sen. Dennis Baxley, a Republican from central Florida, said, “I think some of these people are nearsighted. When it comes to maritime behavior, you don’t just lay down your own rules at every stop along the way. We are very unwelcome to many people who are introduced to Florida. “

Senator Ed Hooper of Palm Harbor on the west coast of Florida said, “I think the way the referendum has been phrased with this strict caveat is the de facto elimination of almost every class of cruise line at sea today. I wish they had made their referendum a little more realistic. “

Boyd, the sponsor of the bill, reminded the committee of the rights of owners before the vote. “What about the private property rights of the people who own the docks down there? … And we haven’t seen any credible scientific evidence that these ships are tearing the ocean floor apart,” Boyd said. “We’re just saying that they can’t discriminate against certain ships because of their size.”

Following the March 24 meeting, Arlo Haskell, Treasurer of Safer Cleaner Ships said, “Today we heard Keys fishermen, environmental groups and a former Assistant Secretary of the Interior under President Reagan discuss the dangers this bill poses to the rule of law and health of the Great Florida Reef. It seems that the only place this bill is popular is in Florida law, where money matters more than common sense. We urge Governor DeSantis to step in and stop this poor bill before it destroys the environmental recovery observed since COVID. “

Haskell and the Key West Committee sent a letter to the governor on March 22, asking him to stand up against SB 426 to protect the coral reef and aid the democratic process of the electorate.

The letter was signed by representatives from 24 environmental groups, including Greenpeace USA, Friends of the Everglades, Florida Wildlife Federation, and Keys fishing guides, Reef Relief and Last Stand of the Florida Keys.

Senate Bill 426 is under review by another committee before going to the Senate for the final vote. An identical bill goes through the Florida House of Representatives.

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