Florida Takes Feds to Court Over Cruise Ship Restrictions

Cruise ship next to dock


The state of Florida will argue before a federal judge Wednesday that the federal government should not be allowed to interfere with the cruise ship industry, which seeks to get back on its feet after the COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent lockdowns.

“Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, filed the lawsuit last month challenging restrictions imposed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and pointing to the economic impact on the state,” according to a CBS Miami report. “Moody’s office is seeking a preliminary injunction based, in part, on arguments that the CDC overstepped its legal authority in imposing the restrictions.”

At the time the lawsuit was filed, DeSantis, a Republican, blasted the federal government, and promised to intervene on behalf of the billion-dollar industry.

Star News Education Foundation Journalism Project“We believe that it is time for us to vindicate the state’s rights and the rights of the state in court and also vindicate the livelihoods of the tens of thousands of Floridians who depend on this industry,” he said. “Help is on the way. We’re going to keep at this until we finally get it open.”

The state, which has moved for an injunction barring the CDC from exercising any authority in the state, argues that the executive branch agency lacks the legal authority to tell the cruise ship industry what it may or may not do.

“Most industries are now back to business, and it is long past time for the rest to follow suit,” lawsuit said. “The cruise industry in Florida cannot do so. It has been locked down for over a year. And this lockdown was not enacted pursuant to the state’s police power, by the United States Congress, or even by the politically accountable president. Rather, it was imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pursuant to a limited delegation from Congress to inspect and disinfect property and animals.”

The state called the CDC’s latest cruise ship orders, which put a tentative plan in place for resuming business as usual but still sideline the entire industry, “arbitrary and capricious.”

It also argues that the American cruise ship industry is being unfairly targeted by the federal government, noting that Americans can travel by plane to a foreign country, go on a cruise, and come back without following any of the CDC’s orders barring cruises.

The federal government says the CDC is acting appropriately, and that if economics is the driver for reopening the cruise ship industry, another COVID-19 outbreak hurt the economy more than resuming cruises would help.

“The CDC has concluded that without adequate precautions, a cruise ship outbreak exacerbating and amplifying the spread of the virus is quite likely given the unique characteristics of cruise ships,” the federal government said in response to the state’s lawsuit. “Plaintiff does not evaluate the impact of such outbreaks on the cruise economy or its overall tax revenue. And plaintiff makes no effort to address the economic implications of would-be cruise passengers forgoing a cruise in the absence of the assurances of safety that accompany federal regulation during the ongoing pandemic.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose state also has a large cruise ship industry, is expected to join the lawsuit on behalf of Florida.

But even if Florida wins its court battle against the federal government, the state still has to contend with the cruise ship industry itself.

A recent bill signed into law by DeSantis bans companies from implementing vaccine passports, or any other proof of vaccination.

But some cruise ship lines are not thrilled with that decision.

Norwegian Cruise Line threatened to pull its fleet from Florida if the state does not allow it to demand proof of vaccination.

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Pete D’Abrosca is a contributor at The Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].

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