Florida and the Feds can’t agree, so a lawsuit lodged by the state demanding an immediate resumption of cruise-line sailing will proceed.
And that’s a victory for Florida’s $8.1 billion cruise industry and a defeat for government-overreach, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday.
“We’re going to be sailing hopefully very soon,” DeSantis said during a Miami news conference, noting it is pressure from Florida that is forcing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) to relax restrictions on the cruise industry.
“Had we not done what we did by suing, you would not be talking about sailing right now. The CDC was not moving. They were not budging. They were non responsive,” he said.
The CDC’s April conditional-sale order update requires 95% of cruise ship passengers and 98% of crew be vaccinated and ships undergo 60 to 90 days of preparation and test sailing before resuming full operations, is “an absolute farce.”
The state’s lawsuit, filed in April against the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) contends the order is “unlawful,” outdated and has left the state’s cruise industry pier-side since last March.
On May 12, state and federal attorneys argued before Merryday in Tampa with Florida’s lawyers seeking to an injunction against the conditional-sale order to resume sailing immediately.
On May 20, Merryday ordered all parties into mediation until June 1. After several days of discussions, including an 11-hour session on May 27, that effort ended Tuesday.
“We were in mediation with them. They were very unreasonable about some of the things that they were asking,” DeSantis said, expressing confidence the state will win its lawsuit and, if it doesn’t, would continue to appeal because the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals now has a majority of judges appointed by former President Donald Trump.
“There’s not been a single elected official in this country who’s done more to liberate the cruise lines from a bureaucracy that is totally out of touch, and that, quite frankly, is exercising authority that they do not possess, under the law,” DeSantis said.
The CDC’s order – supported by the cruise industry because a vast majority of their customers will not board the ships without assurances crew and fellow passengers are vaccinated against COVID-19 – runs afoul with a bill signed into law by DeSantis banning businesses or institutions from requiring proof of vaccination, or “vaccine passport.”
Under the new law, if a cruise operator violated the law, it would have to pay up to a $5,000 fine on a per passenger basis.
Instead of exempting the cruise industry from the law, DeSantis would rather spend state money defending it because he is running for president in 2024, say his two declared 2022 gubernatorial Democratic challengers,
Former Republican Governor and current Democratic U.S. Rep Charlie Crist and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who will vie for the Democratic nod to take on DeSantis, have issued statements criticizing the governor for placing ideology above the economy.
“Every business should have the right to regulate their own when it comes to who their patrons are. This is something that has to be a free market decision,” Fried said on WFLA TV Wednesday. “I also know this lawsuit was for the sole purpose of political games. This was not because they truly believe in this policy. It’s because they want to win points with a very small sector of our state.”