The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Update: Charlie Crist open to Alex Sink and Dem's call for ballot measure on oil drilling

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink joined with three Democratic legislators Thursday and called on Gov. Charlie Crist to bring lawmakers back in special session to pass a constitutional amendment that asks voters if they want to ban oil drilling off Florida's coasts.

The timing of this couldn't be more geared toward an election year audience. Republican legislative leaders have not backed off of plans to introduce a proposal next session that would allow the Cabinet to offer oil and gas leases between three and 10 miles off Florida's coast. They have said the oil spill is a game changer but, short of saying they still need more answers as to the cause of the spill, they haven't explained what that means.

In that context, Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, and state Reps. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota, and Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, joined with Sink in asking Crist to tell the legislature to use the ballot as its own plebescite on oil drilling - just as it is for Republican-led priorities with amendments telling Congress to balance the budget or attempting to block the implementation of the federal health care reform act.

UPDATE: Gov. Charlie Crist told the Palm Beach Post today that he was open to the idea. “Obviously, in light of what’s happened recently in the Gulf of Mexico, those kinds of ideas we’re going to have to field,” Crist told reporters while he was visiting a Palm Beach elementary school.

“This much is clear. Let me be very clear about this, as far as oil drilling is concerned: Not now, no way,” Crist said. “Whether it’s in the form of a constitutional amendment or a special session remains to be seen.”

Prespill polls in Florida showed that most of the public supported oil drilling off Florida's coast. A new Mason-Dixon poll is expected out on Friday which will be the first insight into where public opinion is after the growing oil slick threatens the Florida coast.

“I have seen the BP oil spill up close, spreading for miles,'' Sink said in a statement Thursday. ''This evidence proves that near-beach drilling in Florida is a disastrous idea - we must never let oil companies drill just 3 miles off our beaches. Last year, oil companies spent millions on lobbyists and a PR spin machine and quickly passed near-beach drilling through the Florida House. The people of Florida must send legislators a message that we will not allow Florida’s economy to be put at risk or forget the painful lessons of this historic spill.''

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[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 12:34pm]

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