Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday vowed to fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary to overturn a Saturday night ruling that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has power to regulate the cruise industry.
DeSantis argues that the ruling, issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, is hurting Florida's economy. DeSantis ordered the state to sue the CDC in April over the orders the agency imposed in spring of 2020.
DeSantis said the CDC's order was illegal since Congress never gave the CDC authority to enforce health and safety rules on cruise ships operating from American ports.
U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday granted a preliminary injunction in June that would have taken away the CDC's authority, but the agency appealed, and the three-judge panel overturned it one day before it was to take effect.
DeSantis said Monday he believes the full 12-member court of appeals would side with him, or that the U.S. Supreme Court would do so if the case has to be take that far, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
Regardless of the outcome, the CDC's authority expires, Oct. 31.
Several cruise lines already have begun operating, making sure they comply both with the CDC's rules and with Florida's state law that prohibits businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination.
Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line are encouraging passengers to show proof of vaccination, but are not requiring them, the Sun-Sentinel reported. They are requiring travelers who have not been vaccinated to buy travel insurance and follow mask and social-distancing guidelines. Vaccinated customers do not have to follow those rules.
Norwegian Cruise Line, meanwhile, is simply refusing to leave port from Florida until November because it disagrees with the governor's stance and wants its ships to be fully vaccinated.
Norwegian filed a lawsuit of its own last week opposing Florida's ban on "vaccine passports" and filed a brief backing the CDC's appeal on the injunction.
Little effect is expected on the industry either way since most lines have adopted policies to satisfy both the state and the CDC, Dawn Meyers, partner with the government and regulatory team of Miami-based firm Berger Singerman, told the newspaper.
"It seems most cruise lines have successfully crafted plans to comply both with the CDC order and the governor’s mandates, except of course for Norwegian," Meyers said. "To me, that is the more immediately interesting lawsuit. The governor’s lawsuit is somewhat of a nonissue given the tightrope path the cruise lines have created and are walking."
"This is an important win for the CDC, not so much for the current pandemic but for future pandemics because it reaffirms the CDC’s authority to take bold action when the public’s health is threatened," said Robert Javis, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University, saying that the CDC likely will win.
DeSantis told reporters on Monday that the lawsuit is not only about the cruise industry, but about federal agencies' ability to close businesses when there has been no specific legislation granting them such power.
"Can you just have one agency in the government, without Congress ever passing a law, just basically shutting down an industry?" he said. "Maybe you don’t care about the cruise industry. Next time it might be your industry. Next time it may affect people that you know, or people that depend on this for their livelihood. So I think it raises a lot of important implications."
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