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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Crist calls special session to ban offshore drilling

Gov. Charlie Crist said Thursday he's calling a special session of the Legislature in less than two weeks and will ask lawmakers to consider a proposed constitutional amendment to ban offshore oil drilling. His proclamation sets the session dates as July 20-23. 

At a hastily-called news conference, Crist said the session would be devoted to one issue -- "a rifle shot," he called it -- to give the voters of Florida a say on drilling. But in doing so, he violated a cardinal rule of Tallahassee politics by calling for a special session without a consensus with legislative leaders.

"I feel a compelling duty to protect Florida," Crist told reporters. "And I'm going to be governor for about six more months, and I think I wouldn't be doing my duty as governor if I did not call for this special session."

Crist noted that the deadline is Aug. 4 for a proposed amendment to make it to the Nov. 2 ballot. He said the Senate sponsor of the proposed drilling ban will be Sen. J. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, but no House sponsor has been selected. His announcement sets up a clash with the House, where Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, has publicly accused Crist of grandstanding on drilling.

Cretul also has said drilling is already banned by state law, but Crist noted that House leaders tried in 2009 to allow drilling three miles off the coast (the Senate killed the bill).

"Politics has nothing to do with this," Crist said. "This has everything to do with doing what's right for a place that I love. I love Florida." The press event ended abruptly with Crist saying he did not know how House leaders would react because they have repeatedly refused to return his phone calls.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 10:46am]


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