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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Martinez warns Florida lawmakers against 'mistake' on oil drilling



Sen. Mel Martinez warned Republicans in the Florida Legislature against a push to open up off-shore oil drilling. "Look at what we did," he said of the 2006 federal law that keeps oil rigs 230 miles off Tampa Bay and 125 miles off the Florida Panhandle.

"We did something that opened up a lot of drilling, but it did protect Florida’s coast," Martinez told reporters after his farewell speech. "To do it as close as they are talking about would really be a mistake."

With the support of future House Speaker Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, oil and business interests are pursuing a plan that would permit the sale of drilling leases in state waters between the shore and 10 miles off Florida's Gulf Coast.

In an interview outside the Senate chamber, Martinez seemed relaxed, happy even. He said he did not take the decision to resign lightly but feels comfortable with leaving early nonetheless.

Though calls for a renewed immigration debate have intensified, Martinez does not think Congress will deal with the issue soon. "There’s too many other issues. I think it’s a crowded agenda. I don’t think they can do something this divisive and this difficult in the environment of an impending election."

He said he does not have a job lined up but is exploring options, noting his background as a lawyer.

George LeMieux, who watched Martinez's farewell speech, took a pass on the oil drilling question, saying he'd leave that up to the Legislature. He also demurred when asked whether he shared his party's concern about the health care debate.

LeMieux plans on watching President Obama's speech from the House gallery (he cannot take the floor until being sworn in tomorrow afternoon).


[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 2:17pm]


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