Key West proves it: Florida voters care about the environment, but Florida Republicans overrule them

Key West proves it: Florida voters care about the environment, but Florida Republicans overrule them (2)
Image via City of Key West | Facebook
Despite rhetoric pushing for limited government Florida, Republican lawmakers often enforce their minority views on citizens who've voted for something different. (See Amendment 4, most recently.) The latest pre-emption attempt by Republicans pits them against Key West voters who in November voted to approve measures that would ensure the popular cruise destination doesn’t face the overtourism that nearly ruined it prior to the pandemic.

The three ballot questions approved in November limit the number of disembarkations to Florida’s southernmost city. They also ban any vessel carrying more than 1,300 passengers, and prioritize cruise lines with above-average environmental and health records. All the measures passed a 60 percent threshold. The measure to give priority to cruise lines with good safety records priority was approved by more than four out of five voters.

Manatee County state Sen. Jim Boyd has now introduced a bill to overturn the local initiative. The DeSantis-endorsed, Florida Chamber of Commerce-backed politician has made a name for himself with his pro-business agenda. His bill (SB 426) notes that Florida’s ports are important for global trade routes and claims that “allowing each local government in which a Florida seaport is located to impose its own requirements on the maritime commerce conducted in that port could result in abrupt changes in the supply lines bringing goods into and out of this state.” It ignores the fact that the Key West ban still allows smaller ships and is simply designed to ensure tourists don’t overrun the 7-square-mile island.

Boyd's bill goes on to claim that local regulations enacted by citizens of a community threaten “the public’s health, safety, and welfare,” while, again, ignoring the fact that the health of local citizens is one primary concern the Key West measures seek to address.

The proposed bill is similar to another that Republicans pushed through in 2016 after Orlando residents expressed interest in banning environmentally dangerous polystyrene. Other Republican-backed measures have blocked voter and city official-approved initiatives that required paid sick leave, that would allow cities to engage with telecommunication providers directly, to limit gun sales, ban plastic bags, and to block coral reef-killing sunscreens.

Last year local politicians and community groups tried to bring awareness to the issue. Florida is a home rule state that, at least officially, gives local municipalities the right to enact such bans. Yet, for decades, that hasn’t been the case, with Tallahassee instead dictating what laws local communities can and cannot pass.

In speaking with Orlando Weekly on the issue last year, Scott Dudley, legislative director for the Florida League of Cities, said that on numerous local issues, the "state is stepping in and saying, 'We know better, we're stepping into your domain.'”

“That's not right," said Dudley.

The bill has yet to be heard or voted on by any committees but, if history is any indication, Republicans will jump at this chance to once again usurp the voice of local communities.

Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly newsletters, and consider supporting this free publication. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you Central Florida news, and every little bit helps.


Since 1990, Orlando Weekly has served as the free, independent voice of Orlando, and we want to keep it that way.

Becoming an Orlando Weekly Supporter for as little as $5 a month allows us to continue offering readers access to our coverage of local news, food, nightlife, events, and culture with no paywalls.

Join today because you love us, too.

Scroll to read more Arts Stories + Interviews articles

Join Orlando Weekly Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.