TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- Democrats are calling for a special session to put a drilling ban on the November ballot and Gov. Charlie Crist says he may be willing to go along.
A group of prominent Democrats, including Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who is running for governor, issued a call this morning.
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Appearing at a West Palm Beach elementary school to honor Teacher Appreciation Week, Crist told the Palm Beach Post, "Obviously, in light of what's happened recently in the Gulf of Mexico, those kinds of ideas we're going to have to field," the paper quoted him as saying. "Whether it's in the form of a constitutional amendment or a special session remains to be seen."
"As members of the legislature, we know that bad ideas -- when they're attached to special interests -- become vampires. They rise from the dead," said Rep. Keith Fitzgerald (D-Sarasota). "We're proposing to drive a stake through this particular bad idea once and for all."
The Florida Wildlife Federation began drafting its own amendment last year after House Republicans, led by Speaker-designate Dean Cannon of Winter Park, passed a measure lifting Florida's 20-year ban on drilling in near-shore waters.
Sen. Mike Haridopolos, a Republican from Merritt Island who is next in line to be Senate president, was pushing the same legislation, but it was stopped cold by current President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach.
Both Haridopolos and Cannon have since said they are shelving their ideas. Crist stunned his environmental supporters in 2008 when he said he would support offshore drilling, a position he took when he was being considered as a potential running mate for Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee.
We'll have more on this story coming up on 10 Connects News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Here's a copy of the Democratic press release:
Miami, FL - Joining together from coast to coast, CFO Alex Sink, State Senator Dan Gelber (D-Miami Beach), and State Representatives Keith Fitzgerald (D-Sarasota) and Rick Kriseman (D-St. Petersburg) called on Governor Charlie Crist to reconvene the legislature for a special session to consider a constitutional amendment that would ban drilling off of Florida's beaches. Hosting press conferences in Miami and St. Petersburg, the three lawmakers released proposed legislation they intend to file should the legislature be called into special session.
"I have seen the BP oil spill up close, spreading for miles. This evidence proves that near beach drilling in Florida is a disastrous idea -- we must never let oil companies drill just three miles off our beaches," said Florida CFO Alex Sink. "Last year, oil companies spent millions on lobbyists and a PR spin machine and quickly passed near beach drilling through the Florida House. The people of Florida must send Legislators a message that we will not allow Florida's economy to be put at risk or forget the painful lessons of this historic spill. It is for these times of crisis that the Governor has the power to call the legislature back to Tallahassee, and I hope Governor Crist will do so immediately to take up this important amendment to ban near beach drilling. This special session should also tackle the urgent economic and environmental issues which may result from this disastrous oil spill, such as making absolutely sure that BP will pay for every last dime of this cleanup and income lost by our businesses."
"The tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico and the growing impact to Florida's coastline and economic engine underscores the need for some in the legislature to drop the issue of oil drilling entirely," said State Sen. Dan Gelber (D-Miami Beach). "Florida's fragile coastline and its beautiful beaches are the backbone of our multi-billion-dollar tourism industry. Shortsighted fixes to meet today's energy demands are a real threat to Florida's most unique economic and environmental asset. We need a united front to fight the big oil interests who want to open the waters around our state to drilling."
"Now is the right time to settle, once and for all, the question of whether or not to drill in our waters," said State Representative Keith Fitzgerald (D-Sarasota). "The events of the past few days have strengthened my resolve that the answer is no. This is exactly the right time to propose a constitutional amendment that will end drilling off our shores and protect Florida's beautiful coastlines for future generations."
"Even with a horrific and historic environmental and economic disaster unfolding before our eyes, Republican Leadership in Tallahassee refuses to drop their plans to drill just a few miles off our coast," said State Rep. Rick Kriseman (D-St. Petersburg). "We can no longer wait on them to put an end to this ridiculous oil drilling debate. We can no longer allow them to steer our state's energy agenda."
The proposed constitutional amendment offered by lawmakers will:
- Allow voters to decide if the Florida Constitution should be amended to include a prohibition on drilling for oil or natural gas off Florida's coast.
- Send a clear message to the oil industry of what Florida residents think about proposals to open more areas off our coast to oil drilling. The amendment takes the decision away from the oil executives and places it with the people of Florida.
- Preserves our beaches and coast by reducing the chance that the pollution associated with drilling will destroy Florida's pristine coastline.
Jim Ash, Florida Capital Bureau Chief and Kathryn Bursch, 10 Connects