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Is Crist's drilling ban necessary, or a 'political stunt'?

Okay, just to keep score:

It's a "political stunt" for Gov. Charlie Crist to call a special session of the Legislature this week to propose a constitutional ban on oil drilling in Florida waters.

It's "smoke and mirrors."

It's a wasteful abuse of the amendment process and a squandering of tax dollars. It's a gimmick for Crist's U.S. Senate campaign.

This is according to the Republican leaders of the Legislature.

They have to show up in Tallahassee at the governor's command. But they don't have to pass anything. They can convene just long enough to say howdy and then adjourn.

As House Speaker Larry Cretul said in a letter to his members, "You can expect your stay to be very short."

And that is the Legislature's discretion. If the Legislature really thinks the right thing to do about the oil spill is "nothing," then by all means, do it.

Of course, doing nothing this week means no immediate help for the Panhandle and Floridians already hurt by the spill. Maybe later, the Legislature says.

It also means not using the opportunity to talk about alternative energy or Florida's energy future. We have been bizarrely paralyzed on this subject for years.

Most of all, it means Florida voters will not get to vote in November on whether to amend our state Constitution to ban drilling in Florida waters.

Because that would be "smoke and mirrors," and a waste of time, and all that.

One House member, a Republican from Oviedo named Sandy Adams, even announced she is filing a motion to censure (that is, formally reprimand) Crist for calling the session. Her idea was trumpeted by the House Republican office via a news release.

Adams (who, as it happens, is running for Congress) wants Crist rebuked for "the unnecessary spending of taxpayer dollars for a special session set solely to enact a redundant constitutional amendment banning an activity already banned by Florida law," the GOP statement said.

Well.

As long as we're talking about wasting people's time, we should remember a couple of things that the Legislature has already put on the November ballot.

There's Amendment 9, for one. That's the one that declares that laws such as the big federal health-care reform, often called "Obamacare," will not count in Florida.

Not only is Amendment 9 constitutionally dubious, it is an entirely political gesture, intended to whip up the faithful in November.

Also, the Legislature is using this November's ballot to hold an unusual, non-binding, "advisory" referendum to ask Floridians …

Do you think the federal budget should be balanced?

I am pretty sure the answer is going to be "yes." Did they need to call a statewide election for it? Or were they just slapping another bumper sticker on the ballot?

One of the arguments against Crist's drilling amendment is that we don't need it, because it is already banned in Florida law. And yet, some of the same people who say this were arguing, back in 2008, that we absolutely had to put a ban on same-sex marriage in the Constitution, even though it was illegal.

Yet as recently as a few months ago, some leaders of the Legislature were perfectly willing, even eager, to throw open Florida's waters to drilling. If there ever were a case that a mere ban in state law is not enough, this is it.

Last point: They ought to at least vote on it.

That is not the Tallahassee way, of course. As with the recent gutting of the Public Service Commission, the Legislature often sets things up so that a deed is done by a few, and everybody else walks away whistling, trying to look innocent.

But if the right thing to do is refuse the governor's short-term, finger-in-the-wind demand, then the Legislature should have the guts to do it with honor, in public.

Is Crist's drilling ban necessary, or a 'political stunt'? 07/17/10 [Last modified: Sunday, July 18, 2010 11:05am]
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