Washington, DC – Congresswomen Jackie Speier (CA-14) and Doris Matsui (CA-06) on Friday introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives limiting federal assistance for cruise industry companies that fail to undertake significant tax, environmental, medical, and labor reforms. The Cruise Reform and Uniform Industry Standards Evoke (CRUISE) Integrity Act would address the industry’s abysmal history of negligence and evasion by requiring companies to incorporate and register vessels in the United States and adhere to strict standards in order to be eligible for federal aid, including forms of relief related to COVID-19.
“For too long, cruise lines have turned a profit while running roughshod over U.S. laws and values,” Rep. Speier said. “The cruise industry has spent billions on share repurchasing to line the pockets of executives and shareholders instead of investing in environmental stewardship or their workers – all while incorporating abroad and using foreign-flagged ships to dodge U.S. taxes.”
“As it stands, most cruise lines are little more than foreign polluters that fail to protect their workers and passengers,” Rep. Speier continued. “Companies that search out and exploit every opportunity to evade U.S. taxes and laws must not get a blank check from taxpayers when the going gets rough.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has cast further light on systemic issues that our cruise lines have been capitalizing on for decades. Cruise lines have indiscriminately polluted the seas, ignored passenger health and safety, and avoided federal taxes that support the agencies that are fighting this outbreak,” Rep. Matsui said. “While our taxpaying American families take the brunt of the economic hardship of this unprecedented moment, we cannot allow foreign-flagged cruise lines to take advantage of federal funds that could go to Americans who need it the most. We achieved a significant win ten years ago with the passage of my legislation, the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, which secured additional health and safety measures aboard cruise ships. However, we’ve seen that the industry will do everything in their power to dodge these critical reforms, at the expense of the American people who are simply seeking a fun, family-friendly vacation with their loved ones. I’m proud to partner with Rep. Speier to continue calling for accountability within the cruise industry in the face of this unprecedented economic crisis. This bill continues to move us in the right direction and makes sure that these historically bad actors are not rewarded for their behavior during this difficult time.”
Last month, Rep. Speier sent a letter cautioning House leadership against bailing out the cruise industry without serious stipulations. These efforts to ensure integrity in federal assistance disbursement and hold cruise lines accountable for bad behavior were inspired by an outpouring of messages from constituents and others detailing deeply concerning behaviors by cruise lines, including refusing to fully reimburse passengers for trips cancelled due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
The CRUISE Integrity Act would address these injustices by making the following reforms.
- Limit federal assistance to cruise lines that are incorporated in the U.S., have a majority of vessels registered in the U.S., and offer full refunds for cancelations related to COVID-19.
- Prohibit companies from using stimulus funds for stock buybacks, executive pay increases, and dividend payments and other capital investments until one year after the date the loans are repaid in full.
- Prevent the reduction of the principal amount of a covered loan through loan forgiveness.
- Require cruise lines to certify that they are in compliance with expanded medical capacity standards.
- Require cruise lines to develop and submit plans to drastically reduce emissions of carbon, methane, nitrogen oxides, and Black Carbon, including by reducing the use of heavy fuel oil and Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems.
- Require cruise lines to certify that they are in compliance with existing and expanded environmental laws, including dumping laws and a sampling, monitoring, and reporting program.
- Increase penalties for illegally dumping untreated waste in open water and prohibit any dumping of treated or untreated waste in Alaska, the U.S. Arctic, and other sensitive water bodies.
A copy of the bill is attached to this press release.
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