Saturday, July 17, 2010

Why Bother?

Gov. Charlie Crist has called a special session of the legislature next week in order to enact a permanent ban on oil drilling off the Gulf coast of Florida. But since he’s running for the Senate as an independent and basically told the Florida GOP to go get bent, they’re planning to return the favor.

Fearing a major victory for Gov, Charlie Crist, Florida Republican leaders are prepared to take drastic action next week — even blocking a historic vote on a constitutional amendment banning offshore oil drilling.

Legislators are expected to reluctantly convene a special session Tuesday called by the governor, then swiftly reject a plan that could drive his supporters to the polls.

A survey of House Republicans shows the party’s caucus is so deeply divided over the amendment that leaders fear it would be difficult for Republicans to stand up to Crist and vote against bringing the issue to the voters.

At least 14 Republicans and one Democrat who supported legislation in 2009 to open Florida waters to oil drilling now support asking voters to decide on a ban, according to a survey of legislators by The Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times.

Combined with 43 Democrats who support the constitutional amendment, there are at least 58 solid votes in support. Another eight Republicans, most of them in coastal districts, declined to state a position and 23 Republicans could not be reached.

”If we vote on it, I believe it will pass,” said Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a Miami Republican and majority whip who last year supported a plan to open Florida waters from three to 10 miles offshore to oil and gas drilling.

So rather than do the right thing and let the voters decide whether or not to ban off-shore drilling — which, based on current events, I’m guessing would probably pass — the GOP would rather put politics first. No surprise there.

And it’s no surprise that the governor called the special session in the first place. It was clearly meant to put the GOP on the spot and use it as a campaign issue. If they had surprised everyone and actually gone along with the vote to put the measure on the ballot, Gov. Crist could run ads saying that he is a consensus-builder who can reach across the aisle and work with everyone to accomplish something good for Florida. If, as expected, the session craters, then he can put out ads that say he’s a fighter against the special interests.

So both sides get something out of this special session if you’re talking politics. But as for doing anything about the real issue or putting the actual needs of the people and the state first, why bother?