(1:20 p.m. EDT) -- The attorney general of Texas has filed a motion for the state to join Florida's lawsuit against the U.S. Centers of Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and Department of Health and Human Services, an effort geared at resuming cruises from the U.S. immediately.
The move means that three states with significant cruise ports are now suing the government, as Alaska earlier joined the case. The first hearing on the suit is scheduled in federal court in Tampa next Wednesday, May 12.
Florida's litigation seeks to invalidate the CDC's Conditional Sailing Order guidelines, arguing that preventing ships from sailing is "arbitrary and capricious" and unconstitutional and oversteps the agency's authority. The suit looks to reopen cruising with safety protocols in place.
Ships have not sailed from U.S. ports since March 2020, although the agency has released guidelines and promised a restart as soon as mid-July. signs point to the agency allowing at least a limited restart as soon as mid-summer. Specific operating protocol outlined by the CDC this week, though, has drawn criticism from cruise lines as being onerous and going far beyond what is required for safety on land.
In its filing, the State of Texas argues it has a "significant stake in the outcome of this litigation" and that the prolonged shutdown of the cruise industry has already cost Texas 23,000 jobs and $1.6 billion in lost wages, in addition to $1.2 billion in direct spending.
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"Government policy should not have the ability to destroy industries and eliminate workforces with the stroke of a pen," says Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. "The cruise industry needs clearly defined expectations for safe operations and protection from baseless COVID-related claims while the country is reaching new vaccination records."
The Port of Galveston had nearly 1.1 million cruise passengers embarking in 2019, accounting for nearly 8 percent of U.S. cruise embarkations pre-pandemic, according to the filing. The port this week began a program to administer vaccines to crew – beginning with those on the Carnival Breeze and Carnival Vista.
When the Florida lawsuit was first announced by Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis on April 8, some legal experts called it a "political stunt," reported the Miami Herald. DeSantis this week signed into law banning vaccine passports in Florida, a move that could impact the cruise industry restart in the state.
Alaska joined the case on April 20, Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy saying the cruise industry is vital to that state's economy, with the economic loss from the cancelled 2020 season more than $3 billion. The Inside Passage towns that rely on cruise tourism have been adversely affected.
In a case that may or may not impact the cruise-restart litigation, a federal judge ruled this week that the CDC lacks legal authority to impose a COVD-19-related nationwide eviction moratorium. The Biden administration plans to appeal that ruling.