On the oil session, Amendment 7 and the Scott lawsuit

1. Ban, baby, ban.

2. Kicked off the ballot.

3. The millionaire's lawsuit.

Our cheerful governor was against oil drilling in Florida waters, until he was for considering it, until You Know What, so now he is against it again. What the heck.

The governor has called a special session of our Legislature starting July 20 to propose a permanent ban on drilling in our state Constitution. This depends on (1) the Legislature agreeing to put it on the ballot and (2) the voters passing it in November.

You can tell that the Legislature is not keen on this idea. Most of its Republican leaders were of the "drill, baby, drill" crowd. Besides, they detest the party-quitting governor; why dance to his tune?

Yet he has put the Legislature on the spot.

Can the members of the Legislature really reject an oil-drilling ban, with the Panhandle beaches turning black and an election looming?

Maybe.

They might argue: Look, there's already a ban in state law right now, no need to overreact. You don't amend the Constitution out of panic or short-term crisis.

The Legislature also could soften the blow of rejecting an outright ban by coming up with Plan B, one or more steps to make it seem as though it has done something.

Among these ideas are tax breaks for spill victims, cutting regulations for local governments and businesses involved in recovery efforts, changes to the claims process and so forth.

Still, that seems bureaucratic compared to a sexy, dramatic constitutional ban. And if the Legislature does reject a ban, only to see the disaster get worse between now and the election, it plays into the governor's hands.

If that wasn't enough of an irritant for the Legislature last week, it got another whack on the snoot. A judge in Tallahassee threw the Legislature's devious Amendment 7 off November's ballot.

Amendment 7 was the Legislature's attempt to kill Amendments 5 and 6, the two "fair districts" proposals (one applying to the Legislature, one to Congress) put on the ballot by citizen petition.

The judge noted dryly that it took him three days to figure out what Amendment 7 actually said, concluding: "I can hardly think that the average voter going in the voting booth would be able to make an informed decision."

Citizens 1, Legislature 0. Naturally, the Legislature might appeal.

On the Florida election front, meanwhile, millionaire and nouveau candidate for governor Rick Scott filed a lawsuit against the state's "public financing" for candidates. His goal is to block any assistance for his Republican opponent, Bill McCollum.

The way the law works, a candidate who agrees to limit his own spending can get matching funds from the state when another candidate goes over that limit.

Since Scott has spent a bazillion dollars so far, McCollum is in line for some state cash.

Interestingly, the Republican Legislature hates public financing and has gutted it over the years. There's even another amendment on this fall's ballot, proposed by the Legislature, to eliminate it altogether.

Yet the incoming leaders of the Legislature, Dean Cannon in the House and Mike Haridopolos in the Senate, are supporting McCollum over the outsider Scott.

What irony! Unless their own guy gets some of that "welfare for politicians" that they hate, they could end up with the Other Guy as governor. In a more literate era, I would say they were being hoist by their own petard, but that would involve explaining what a "petard" is, so never mind.

Scott's week, by the way, was marred by pesky questions about What He Would Actually Do As Governor. Some of these details appear to have escaped him so far, particularly when it comes to any actual issues facing the state, but who cares? Let's get to work!

On the oil session, Amendment 7 and the Scott lawsuit 07/10/10 [Last modified: Sunday, July 11, 2010 1:32pm]

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