On April 27, Friends of the Everglades joined the Ocean Conservancy and dozens of other environmental organizations in sending a letter to Gov. DeSantis opposing a pair of bills, SB 426 and HB 267, that pose yet another legislative attack on home rule and the environment.
The letter, which requests a veto of SB 426 and HB 267 states:
“Florida’s ocean and coastal assets are a key economic driver for the state, as well as the foundation of the state’s cultural identity. Floridians live, work, and play on the state’s beaches and the reefs offshore, and visitors leave behind billions in contributions to the state’s GDP. Port authorities and local governments know their local waterways best. These waterways are the community backyard – they are where citizens make a living and where they play.
Overriding the home rule powers of local governments will be counterproductive when it comes to achieving restoration and protection of the unique environment that Floridians and visitors alike overwhelmingly prioritize. Local governments and port authorities should be allowed to retain the power to regulate vessels that might have deleterious impact on local ecosystems, for example on coral reef habitat or hardbottom fish habitat – those very ecosystems that are the driver of billions of dollars in impacts to Florida’s economy.”
These bills defy the will of Key West voters, 60% of whom approved three referendums last November in an effort to limit cruise traffic to protect environmentally sensitive, nearshore barrier reefs. The referendums would prohibit ships with 1,300 or more passengers from docking there, limit visitors from ships to 1,500 cruise passengers per day, and give priority to cruise ships that have the best environmental and health records.
The Legislature didn’t care about that.
The original bills lost steam Tuesday evening, prompting an amendment filed by Senator Jim Boyd on Senate Bill 1194 — an unrelated transportation bill — to keep the legislation alive. The amendment blocked “any local ballot initiative or referendum from restricting maritime commerce” at any one of Florida’s 15 deep-water ports.
By Wednesday afternoon, a resurgence of the effort to preempt Key West cruise restrictions made a fast and furious return, quickly powering through an affirmative vote in the Senate and closely followed by the House. The baton now passes to Gov. DeSantis for a final signature or veto. We hope it’s the latter.
Friends of the Everglades has been proud to stand with the Key West Committee for Safer Cleaner Ships and other allies. The letter requesting a veto seeks recognition and affirmation from Gov. DeSantis for the will of Florida voters and the necessity of home rule and environmental protection.