The Key West Committee for Safer Cleaner Ships is sounding the alarm over an attempt to buy Gov. Ron DeSantis’s support for a bill that would overturn the votes of Key West residents against massive, polluting cruise ships docking at the island. The Committee writes:
CAMPAIGN FINANCE SCANDAL SPLASHES OVER CRUISE LEGISLATION
A stunning turn of events has temporarily stalled the relentless progress of proposed legislation that would overturn the results of last November’s election and force large cruise ships back into the Florida Keys.
Minutes after Speaker Chris Sprowls gaveled the Florida House of Representatives into session yesterday, the Miami Herald published a bombshell investigation revealing a $1 million effort by Mark Walsh, who controls the only privately operated cruise ship terminal in the U.S., to buy Governor DeSantis’s signature on the cruise ship bill which was expected to come up for a final vote in the House yesterday.
Although Governor DeSantis has not been accused of anything improper, the $1 million donation made by Mark Walsh in the middle of the legislative session, with a bill that directly benefits Walsh already drawing national media coverage, has the stench of attempted bribery and immediately drew attacks from elected officials and opponents of the Governor, including from Agriculture Commissioner and likely gubernatorial rival Nikki Fried.
When Speaker Sprowls finally got to SB 426/HB 267 on the agenda, members were informed that the bill sponsors had temporarily postponed their bill, withdrawing it from the agenda.
So where do we stand now?
The bill will be back on the agenda when the House goes into session at 10:30 today, and anything could happen. We have had our hopes dashed many times throughout this process, and nothing is final until the session is gaveled to a close later this week. But yesterday’s dramatic news and a flurry of amendments introduced last night give us new hope. Members from around the state are finally standing up for Key West, with Rep. Anna Eskamani and Rep. Carlos Smith sponsoring a trio of amendments that would exempt Key West from the bill and will force members to acknowledge the overwhelming support by voters for the Key West referendum and the brazen effort by Mark Walsh to steamroll them and the coral reef.
And what if we lose in the House?
If we lose in the House, the fate of the world’s third largest barrier reef and the livelihoods of fishermen up and down the Florida Keys will be in the hands of Governor DeSantis. Will he stand up for the environment and working Floridians against big money donors like Mark Walsh and veto this bill? The Governor has done it before when he fought to restore the Florida Everglades and it is our hope that he will do it again.
Capt. Will Benson continues to lead our outreach to the Governor’s office, and we are hopeful that the Governor will accept Capt. Will’s invitation to come to Key West and discuss the impacts of large cruise ships on the fishery. You can help by calling or writing to the Governor.
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