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Playing into the hands of the Tan Teflon Man

By now, your state lawmakers are hoping you have forgotten last week's debacle of a special session to consider a ban on oil drilling off Florida's shores.

Though maybe instead of "special session," we should say "special seconds," since that's about how long they took to play a fast game of partisan politics and deny us the chance to vote on a constitutional amendment come November.

But, hey, that oil that started gushing into our Gulf of Mexico a few months ago is pretty much over, right?

Capped and all that?

Back to big business with Big Oil, right, guys?

Well … except for the fallout of millions of gallons of oil that spewed into our waters.

And the toll on our all-important fishing and tourism industries.

And the effect on that delicate marine life, the full impact of which we can only guess.

But as it turns out, politics are more important. Since Gov. Charlie Crist broke with the GOP in his run for the U.S. Senate, he has been dead to some of them, a rift that apparently surpasses even environmental disaster.

If Crist, say, publicly opined that the citrus industry is a point of pride for our state, the Republican-led Legislature might promptly pass a law ordering the mowing over of all orange groves and a new state slogan: Florida: Home of the Cranberry Bog!

So when Crist called his special session to put the constitutional amendment on the ballot, they sniffed it was pure political posturing. They would have none of it, many of them said, showing up to make an abrupt and meaningful exit. Showed him. And us.

And, when you think about it, played right into hands of the Tan Teflon Man.

Because a lot of us who have spent weeks worried about our beaches and the livelihoods of our neighbors and the future of our state didn't care so much about the politics of the moment.

A lot of us would have liked the chance to decide whether to tuck a ban on offshore drilling 3 to 10 miles from shore into our state Constitution for safekeeping, regardless of the motives of the person making the suggestion.

Lawmakers hastened to assure us a ban is already in state statutes, and hoped we'd forget recent attempts to overturn the law against drilling in state waters. Some solemnly pinky-swore not to try that again. Not any time soon, anyway.

My personal favorite hypocrisy was the harrumphing about Crist's waste of $50,000 a day in taxpayer money for the session, though these guys know what they're talking about when it comes to spending on the public dime. Had they walked away after a day of talking cleanup or economic help or the future of energy, we might think: well spent.

Here's the real legacy of the session that wasn't: They didn't just use the biggest such disaster in American history as a handy tool with which to bash Gov. Charlie across the kneecaps. They didn't just say: Big Oil trumps the citizens of our state.

They decided you don't get to decide. They huffed and puffed and sneered and jeered and ultimately said: Sorry, you get no say.

In terms of getting anything done to make our state better — that is what's supposed to go on up there, right? — this was one forgettable session.

But one Florida voters should not forget.

Playing into the hands of the Tan Teflon Man 07/27/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 7:16pm]
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