With millions of gallons of crude gushing from a well in the Gulf of Mexico, oil company executives scrambling to shift blame and coastal businesses bracing for trouble, you’d think politicians would be lining up to endorse Gov. Charlie Crist’s call to amend the Florida Constitution to ban oil drilling in state waters. After all, state law already prohibits drilling. A constitutional amendment would make the ban ironclad.
But the governor’s plan for a special legislative session to work up wording for the amendment has received a lot of cold shoulders. Blame it on politics.
Crist shook up the U.S. Senate race last month when he decided to run as an independent, and that ticked off Democrats as well as Republicans. Now, many lawmakers are reluctant to side with him on the drilling issue.
In addition, a sizable number of lawmakers still favor offshore drilling and would rather have drilling banned only by state law – a law that could be changed or scrapped.
“That (current) law would have to be changed before any drilling can be done,” state Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, acknowledged the other day. Gaetz is a longtime drilling supporter who said four months ago it would take strong military opposition to change his mind.
Events in Tallahassee show that the state law against drilling is, at best, shaky. The Associated Press summarized: “Legislation to lift the existing prohibition passed in the House last year but didn’t get a Senate vote. A similar bill was offered this year but was quickly tabled.”
It seems that if Floridians are serious about keeping oil rigs out of state waters, especially in light of the disaster in the Gulf, they would want the kind of muscle provided by a constitutional amendment.
Recently, we asked our online readers whether they would favor such an amendment. More than 60 percent said yes – a significant number, given that this region traditionally has been on the “Drill, baby, drill!” side of the argument. Surveyed in May 2008, a solid 76 percent of our readers wanted the eastern Gulf opened to drilling.
My, how times have changed. Floridians will want to vote on an anti-drilling constitutional amendment. Lawmakers ought to let them.
Editor’s Note: The above editorial appeared May 17 in the Northwest Florida Daily News in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. The views expressed in the editorial are not necessarily those of the South Florida Times.
On The Net: