Florida governor sues CDC over no sail order

Photo (c) David Sacks - Getty Images

Ron DeSantis is questioning the CDC’s authority when it comes to cruise restrictions

Push came to shove in the struggle between the cruise industry and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is behind the latest shove with a lawsuit he filed against the Biden administration in federal court. He’s seeking to overturn what he calls the unlawful “Conditional Sailing Order” enacted by the CDC.

The major head-scratcher for DeSantis is that the CDC has let amusement parks, airlines, hotels, restaurants, casinos, and bars reopen. So, why not cruises? 

“This prohibition continues notwithstanding the fact that COVID-19 vaccines are widely available, that other countries have safely and successfully resumed cruise sailings, and that other industries like airlines, bus lines, hotels, restaurants, universities, theme parks, casinos, and bars have successfully reopened,” he stated.

DeSantis says CDC is harming Florida citizens

DeSantis feels that the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order harms Florida and its citizens in at least four ways:

Preventing numerous businesses and employees from earning a living: A recent analysis from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) estimated that the total job loss was expected to reach 301,300 by March 2021.

Contributing to our State’s unemployment: DeSantis says that, to date, over 6,000 former cruise industry employees have filed for State unemployment.

Exacerbating the massive shortfalls in revenues experienced by Florida’s seaports: Since the CDC’s shutdown went into effect, the governor claims Florida’s seaports have suffered a decline in operating revenue of almost $300 million.

Reducing state and local taxes associated with the cruise industry: Projections show that Florida’s cruise industry could have produced over $150 million in state and local tax revenues in the 2020-2021 fiscal cruise year.

Who’s in charge?

While cruise industry groups have tried to reason with the CDC, the governor is going a step further by calling into question the CDC’s authority to impose a shutdown. 

“To be clear, no federal law authorizes the CDC to indefinitely impose a nationwide shutdown of an entire industry. This lawsuit is necessary to protect Floridians from the federal government’s overreach and resulting economic harm to our state,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis dwelled on the “authority” aspect in the lawsuit, saying that Florida is “a sovereign State and has the authority and responsibility to protect the wellbeing of its public fisc and the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens.”

The lawsuit argues that Congress should be making calls like this and that the CDC has overstepped the limits it’s been granted in federal regulations, such as the one it has to control communicable diseases. DeSantis claims that if the CDC had that much power, it would be “tantamount to creating a general federal police power.” On Capitol Hill, Congressman Carlos Gimenez supported DeSantis’ authority argument. 

“These federal bureaucrats, who have no concept of what is actually happening out in the real world, have never had to face the reality of a prolonged furlough or have had their job jeopardized by the pandemic,” he said.

What DeSantis would be happy with

In the lawsuit, DeSantis is asking the Court to do seven things. He didn’t share if it’s an all-or-nothing proposition, but he said having any of the requests granted would help the cruise industry:

  • Hold unlawful and set aside the Conditional Sailing Order.

  • Issue preliminary and permanent injunctive relief instructing the CDC to end its enforcement of the Conditional Sailing Order.

  • Postpone the effective date of the Conditional Sailing Order.

  • Declare that the Conditional Sailing Order is unlawful.

  • Declare that the cruise industry may open with reasonable safety protocols.

  • Award Florida costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.

  • Award such other relief as the Court deems equitable and just.

“Ultimately, the CDC and the entire U.S. cruise community want the same thing— the responsible resumption of cruising from the U.S. this summer,” a spokesperson for CLIA told ConsumerAffairs.

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