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 bu, 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.”
Pre-spill 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 the public is now after the growing oil slick threatens Florida coasts.
As the mass of oil meandered uncertainly in the Gulf of Mexico, Gelber stood before the pristine backdrop of Miami Beach and said Floridians are left to pray that weather keeps the slick from the state's eco-system.
"We need to give the voters of Florida a chance to put in the constitution a ban on drilling," he said. "We shouldn't have to resort to prayers." Unless voters speak out, he said, oil drilling will come to Florida's coast.
Asked the likelihood there was the three-fifths vote needed to get such an amendment on the ballot -- if Crist agreed to call a special session -- Gelber said all legislators should support the measure, despite their personal feelings on drilling off Florida's coast. "I think a lot of my colleagues would be very hard pressed not to put this on the ballot," he said.
Gelber was flanked by State Reps. Luis R. Garcia, Jr. and Richard L. Steinberg.