A state bill has been drafted that would “abolish” the City of Key West and transfer “all assets and legitimate liabilities and revenue streams to the county.”
A draft of the bill was obtained by the new website floridapolitics.com, which shared the draft with The Key West Citizen on Wednesday morning.
The bill is in drafting and there was not wording in the bill to show the bill’s sponsor. Monroe County and City of Key West officials learned of the bill Tuesday night and have been in discussions with their state lobbying teams.
Florida Keys State Rep. Jim Mooney, R-Tavernier, was also made aware of the bill and has begun to make inquiries, he said.
"It's a game," Mooney said. "It's not going anywhere. This is nonsense .... I have been to leadership about this. .... I am not taking this lightly."
Key state Senator Ana Maria Rodriquez, R-Miami, said: "I am in complete opposition to this."
"I don't know who is behind it, but I think it's a terrible idea and would fight it every step of the way," Rodriguez said.
“The City of Key west is abolished,” the draft of the bill stated. “All assets and legitimate liabilities and revenue streams of Key West are transferred to Monroe County.”
The bill states the legislation would be effective July 1, 2022. The bill comes as the City of Key West, a nearly 200-year-old iconic city, and state legislators have been at odds over proposed local cruise ship regulations and the state overturned a local election approving restrictions on cruise ships.
The City Commission is currently researching ways to make the voter referendums city ordinances or regulations, which would not be covered by the state’s pre-emption laws. The referendums put limits on the size of ships and numbers of passengers coming into Key West each day.
Key West and county officials and their lobbying teams in Tallahassee started exchanging emails and texts on Tuesday night as the Key West City Commission was holding its monthly meeting.
Key West City Attorney Shawn Smith was reviewing the issue as of Wednesday, he said. Key West Mayor Teri Johnston called the draft “sheer insanity.”
“It’s really a sad day when you have a difference of opinion and you then want to dissolve a city,” Johnston said. “I hope this is political theater. If not, we are in serious trouble.”
Johnston and others familiar with the draft had been told State Rep. Spencer Roach was the legislator filing the bill. Roach could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
“This came out of the blue at about 6:10 last night,” Key West City Manager Patti McLaughlin said Wednesday. ‘’I’m not sure what the basis for this is.”
McLaughlin and other city staff have been in contact with the city’s lobbyist in Tallahassee on the bill, McLaughlin said.
Roach, R-North Fort Myers, filed the initial bill to overturn the Key West referendum on cruise ships. Roach also filed the bill prohibiting the City of Key West and other cities from implementing regulations banning the use of certain types of sunscreen found to harm coral reefs.
This is not the first time a Florida city was dissolved. Hacienda Village, which was founded 1949, is a defunct town located in central Broward County. The city had a police and fire department like other municipal agencies, yet still relied heavily on Broward County for many services.
The city was disincorporated in 1984 for allegedly having its charter revoked after the police department cited an influential state representative for a traffic infraction and was subsequently absorbed into the nearby town of Davie, Florida. The community had a reputation for being a speed trap, according to published reports.
Hacienda Village was composed of 14 mobile homes and three junkyards. Residents were not taxed, as the town always had a healthy surplus of funds from traffic fines. The fines were a result of some fancy and obscure speed limit postings which were heavily enforced by highly efficient police officers, according to published reports.