Lawmakers unsure if session will yield action on drilling ban
TALLAHASSEE - Bay area lawmakers are returning to the Capitol divided over whether to approve a constitutional ban on offshore drilling if, that is, it comes to a vote at all. Monday, the odds appeared bleaker than ever that Gov. Charlie Crist's proposed ban would even receive consideration in the House. Crist has called the Legislature back for a four-day session starting at noon today to take up his proposal to enshrine in Florida's Constitution an existing statutory ban on near-shore drilling. The question will appear on the November ballot if lawmakers approve it. But the governor, an ex-Republican running as a no-party candidate for U.S. Senate, made his declaration without support from leaders in the GOP-controlled House and Senate, who criticized his decision as politically motivated and unnecessary.Rep. Rick Kriseman, a St. Petersburg Democrat co-sponsoring Crist's amendment, faulted members of his chamber for calling the amendment unnecessary one year after the chamber voted to lift the existing ban. "If this was the Olympics of hypocrisy, I'd give them a gold medal," he said. Crist, acknowledging tension and bitterness over the special session, said Monday if legislators decide not to approve the ban or even decide not to put it to a vote, "It makes a real statement. They have a job to do, and they should do it." Resistance to Crist's proposal appears strongest in the House, where Speaker Larry Cretul has told members to expect a short stay in Tallahassee this week. "I think we'll be going home at noon tomorrow," Rep. Ed Homan, R-Tampa, said Monday. Homan voted in 2009 to lift the ban, but said he will vote to place Crist's amendment on the ballot if it comes to a vote. "What we heard back then, was, 'we're going to be putting the pumps on the bottom of the ocean, that no one would see them, that it's safe, safe, safe.' But things have changed." One of few Republicans who voted to keep the statutory ban in place last year, Rep. Bill Galvano of Bradenton, said he won't vote for Crist's proposal, which he called "more political than policy driven." Because of the way it was written, the version of Crist's proposal filed by House Democrats may not even qualify technically to come up for a vote, said Galvano, House Rules chairman. GOP Rep. Ed Hooper of Clearwater said he doesn't think the amendment is needed, though he will vote for it if House leaders bring it up. Rep. Ed Glorioso, R-Plant City, and Sen. Mike Bennett. R-Sarasota, argued it would clutter up the Constitution. "And right now emotions are way too high," Glorioso said. "We need to take our time, look at what happened and why, and then decide what we should do." Crist ally Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, disagreed, saying House leaders "need to stop throwing bombs at the governor and start thinking of their constituents.''
Samara Sodos contributed to this report.