Some legislators criticize special session
by David Chapman
Several area legislators reached Friday are criticizing next week’s special session called by Gov. Charlie Crist seeking to ban oil drilling off the coast of Florida.
Crist called the four-day session, starting July 20, to consider putting an amendment on the November ballot to ban drilling in state waters.
“I don’t feel it was responsible for the governor to schedule such a session,” said state Rep. Charles McBurney.
McBurney cited the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent leak as occurring in federal waters not under Florida’s jurisdiction.
He also said current statutes are in place and that adding a measure to the constitution would be inappropriate because it would be difficult to reverse if needed.
“We’ve got to be careful when we say ‘never,’” he said.
State Rep. Lake Ray said that while the Gulf disaster is clearly of concern, proposing such an amendment in a short time span without first fully understanding how it happened isn’t the correct approach.
Much like McBurney, Ray said that adding such a measure to the state’s constitution would be “overbearing” and the issue could be undertaken during the regular session with current statutes and moratoriums in place.
“I don’t think to react like this is the right thing to do right now,” he said.
Crist’s amendment would need to be picked up by a member of the House and Senate and then have three-fifths support from both sides in order to go before voters in November. The deadline to place it on the ballot is Aug. 3.
State Sen. Steve Wise isn’t in support, either.
“No,” said Wise. “I’m not voting for it.”
Wise said with laws already in place, the measure “doesn’t make sense” and he doesn’t believe the $40,000-a-day session is a good use of taxpayer dollars.
Instead, he said, he feels legislators across the state will get “beat up” over the session.
Crist told reporters Thursday he felt the constitutional ban was needed to protect Florida and give voters a voice in the matter.
State Rep. Mike Weinstein shared the same concerns as his legislative colleagues, calling the session “unnecessary.” Like others, he believes the measure won’t have enough support of lawmakers and the special session would be a waste.
“I’m fearful of going over and basically accomplishing nothing,” said Weinstein.