House votes 70-43 for oil drilling
The Florida House just voted 70 to 43 on a fast-track bill along party lines that allows the governor and Cabinet to open the door to oil drilling off Florida's coast even as opposition to the measure is mounting.
Gov. Charlie Crist hinted he might veto the bill and Senate leaders have not formally embraced the idea.
To forstall the criticism, House leaders added a series of sweeteners -- promising to use the revenues from future oil drilling for $25 million in solar energy rebates, $25 million to universities for energy reserach and $25 million for the environment.
Reps. Michele Rehwinkel-Vasilinda of Tallahassee and Debbie Boyd of High Springs were the only Democrats to support the measure.
While the measure was first introduced by Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, less than a week ago and was raced to the floor for final action.
"This does not pose a threat to Florida. this does not pose a threat to anything. This bill does not actually authorize any drilling activity to actually occur," Cannon said, noting that the decision will be up to governor and Cabinet who serve as the trustees of Florida's land.
The House voted Democrats argued aggressively against the bill and Republicans defended it. They raised the value of Florida's crystalline beaches, questioned the math of the proponents, and raised doubts about the rush to take up the bill.
"We are gambling with the enviornment we are gambling with our tourist economy," said Rep. Richard Steinberg, a Miami Beach Democrat.
"The bill wipes out two decades of bi partisan opposition to oil dirlling and moves atetnion away to where we ougth to be going and that is on renewable energy," said Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach.
Rep. Erik Fresen, a Miami Republican, said he supports the measure because the bill provides for revenue from applications for oil and gas leases, even before a drill is put in the ground, and if drilling happens it will create thousands of jobs.
"This is a daggar at the heart of my district and the disrict of many coastal communities,'' said Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, a Sarasota Democrat. "Just the smallest of spills will send people elsewhere.''
He made a distinction between the emerging public support for increased offshore oil drilling during the summer gas price hikes and said "this is a completely different proposal. It has nothing to do with that discussion because this has to do with drilling right off shore,'' he said.