Florida Offshore Drilling Amendment (2012)

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A Florida Offshore Drilling Amendment did not make the November 2012 ballot in the state of Florida as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. The measure would have asked voters in the state whether or not to allow offshore drilling off the Florida coast. If it had been sent to the ballot, and enacted by voters, it would have made Florida a drill-free state.[1]

Two bills were filed with the Florida Legislature: SJR 90 by Sen. Arthenia Joyner and HJR 23 by Rep. Rick Kriseman.

The proposed bill was similar to a 2012 initiative effort - Florida Oil Drilling Initiative - supported by Save our Seas, Beaches and Shores, former Gov. Charlie Crist and former state Chief financial officer Alex Sink.[2]

If the proposed measure is referred to the ballot, it would require 60 percent voter approval for adoption.

Background

2010 oil spill

The proposal was developed in reaction to an April 20, 2010 explosion on a British Petroleum (BP) drilling rig that lead to a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico - specifically the spill is in federal waters off of the Louisiana coastline. Approximately 20,000 gallons of oil are reported to have spilled daily into the ocean waters. The spill began to reach land in early May, according to news reports. In May, Gov. Crist wrote President Barack Obama saying the state is expected to face "unprecedented environmental harm." Crist requested an estimated $500 million National Emergency Grant.[3][4]

Past legislation

Current state law already has a similar ban on oil drilling as the 2010 proposed amendment. However, the amendment, would stop bills to open drilling miles from state beaches.[5] In 2009, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill to allow oil drilling three to 10 miles from Florida beaches. The bill, however, did not pass the Senate. According to lawmakers, the topic is predicted to resurface in the next legislative session. The 2010 proposed ban, however, would derail that proposal.[6]

2010 special session

A similar bill was proposed for the 2010 ballot in the state. The legislative session for 2010 ended April 30, 2010, however, the governor was asked to hold the special session by Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Democratic officials - Sen. Dan Gelber, Rep. Keith Fitzgerald and Rep. Rick Kriseman - on May 6, 2010.[7] The proposal was made weeks following an explosion on an oil drilling rig that lead to a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.[8] On May 11, 2010 Gov. Charlie Crist confirmed a special session. "I think it's important that we go ahead and have a special session," he said.[9]

An official date for the session was scheduled for July 20-23. August 4 marked the last day a proposed constitutional amendment can be sent to the state elections office.[10]

Florida Republican leaders announced that regardless of the outcome of the July 2010 special session, they planned to hold a second special session as early as September. According to reports, Republicans planned to delay until the second session to address the "complex issues." Such issues include "cutting taxes for Gulf Coast property owners, improving the BP claims process or eliminating bureaucratic red tape impeding local government responses to the oil spill."[11][12]

On July 20, 2010, the start of the special session, after less than 50 minutes from convening the House voted 67-44 to adjourn the session.[13] The Senate voted 18-16 to adjourn.[14][15]

Support

On May 6, 2010, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Democratic officials - Sen. Dan Gelber, Rep. Keith Fitzgerald and Rep. Rick Kriseman - asked the governor to call for a special session to introduce the amendment.[7]

In reaction to the April 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Gov. Charlie Crist said,"As it relates to what we’ve just seen in the Gulf of Mexico the past couple weeks, clearly it wasn’t far enough. It obviously wasn’t safe enough. And sure as heck isn’t clean enough. And so it’s just not good enough, period." Crist argues that offshore drilling "has to be far enough, clean enough and safe enough" and in light of the 2010 incident should apply to existing and future oil rigs.[16] Crist insisted that he has not changed his position on drilling. He supports drilling but it must be "far enough and safe enough."[17][18]

Arguments

  • The Collier County Commissioners voted unanimously on May 25, 2010 in favor of supporting a permanent oil drilling ban in "Florida waters up to 10 miles offshore, better oversight of drilling in federal waters of the Gulf and a 125-mile buffer between rigs in federal waters and Florida."[19]
  • On May 25, 2010 eleven members of the Florida delegation in Washington, D.C. wrote a letter to Gov. Crist in support of an oil drilling ban amendment and urged the governor to call a special session. "We’re confident that given a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November Floridians will make the right choice for our state," said the letter. The eleven supporters include, according to the letter - U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Rep. Alcee Hastings, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Rep. Corrine Brown, Rep. Kendrick Meek, Rep. Alan Grayson, Rep. Ted Deutch, Rep. Ron Klein, Rep. Kathy Castor, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Suzanne Kosmas.[20]

Opposition

Opponents of the proposed amendment said that a statewide law currently exists that doesn't allow oil drilling between three to 10 miles offshore.[21] Rep. Pat Patterson and Sen. John Thrasher argue that the state should allow federal investigators the time to study what happened during the 2010 oil spill. Thrasher said,"We should understand the facts before we put something in the constitution that would forever prevent us from using those resources offshore." Along with Thrasher, Sen. Carey Baker and Rep. Alan Hays agree the ban isn't necessary due to Florida's current drilling law. The amendment, they said, doesn't belong in the state constitution.[9]

The special session, confirmed by the governor, is described as "merely a political ploy to promote the future of politicians," by House Speaker Larry Cretul. In a statement Cretul said,"Drilling in Florida's waters is currently banned by law and will remain so. There is no need for taxpayers to pay for a special session just to provide a platform for politicians to score points."[22]

Media endorsements

Support

  • The Herald Tribune supported a special session regarding oil drilling. In a May 2010 editorial, the newspaper said,"Floridians have a responsibility to protect the state's seas, shores and estuaries...But defending the marine environment will require more than a constitutional amendment banning oil exploration in the territorial waters of Florida. True protection demands that the state take more significant steps to reduce oil dependence and foster renewable energy...We should say no to drilling but yes to clean energy. We urge Gov. Charlie Crist to call a special session to hammer out real energy progress for Florida."[23]
  • FloridaToday.com supported the special session and proposed amendment. In a May editorial, the website said,"There’s no end in sight to the Gulf spill and the catastrophe looming to marine life, estuaries, beaches and livelihoods in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. It’s time to renounce the destructive folly of off shore drilling and create a clean-energy future for Florida and America."[24]
  • St. Petersburg Times supported the amendment and the special session. In an editorial the board said, "Even if Crist has waffled in the past on drilling, he's on sound ground now, just like Florida politicians from both parties were for years before the oil drilling craze hit Tallahassee. Drilling poses too great a risk to the state's pristine beaches, tourism and overall economy. But Crist now must also practice sound leadership to ensure that whatever he does is best for Florida — not just some political theater. The governor needs to count votes and make sure he has enough to get a constitutional amendment to ban drilling on the ballot before he calls a special session. A good idea is no good if it fails to pass and creates the potential for more mischief in the future."[25]

Opposition

  • The News-Press was opposed to the proposed oil drilling ban amendment. In an editorial, the newspaper editorial board said,"There is no way Florida should allow oil drilling anywhere near its coastline, and the chances of that happening after the Louisiana oil spill are nil, for many years. But a state constitutional amendment permanently banning drilling in state waters is a bad idea. Constitutional referendums are a clumsy way to make policy. They should not be used unless it is clear that the Legislature is refusing to act on an issue."[26]
  • The Panama City News Herald was opposed to the special session and a constitutional amendment. In an editorial, the newspaper said, "What’s the rush? Drilling in state waters already is prohibited by law, and since Deepwater Horizon occurred even the most ardent proponents of changing policy have admitted that their support has collapsed. It likely will be years before the issue is resurrected. That’s as it should be. The state — indeed, the nation — first needs to find out why the oil rig blew up and its safety systems failed, allowing millions of gallons of oil to gush from the sea floor, foul the Gulf and threaten coastlines."[27]

Polls

Offshore drilling

  • In a May 2010 poll by Mason-Dixon it was revealed that since the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 35% of polled voters currently support offshore drilling, while 55% oppose it. In comparison to a poll conducted approximately 11 months prior, 55% were in support, while 31% were opposed. In August 2008, approximately 61% of polled voters supported offshore oil drilling.[28][29][30]
  • A May 14-18 poll conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of News 13, Bay News 9, the St. Petersburg Times and the Miami Herald revealed that of the 607 registered voters polled 44% supported an amendment, while 44% were opposed and 11% were undecided. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.[31]
  • A August 9-11 poll conducted by Mason-Dixon reported that 47% of polled voters supported oil drilling off the coast of Florida, while 44% were opposed and 9% were undecided. The poll interviewed 625 registered voters by telephone. According to reports, the overall margin of error was 4%.[32][33]
Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided
June 2009 Mason-Dixon 55% 31% 14%
May 2010 Mason-Dixon 35% 55% 10%
May 14–18, 2010 Ipsos Public Affairs 44% 44% 11%
Aug. 9-11, 2010 Mason-Dixon 44% 47% 9%

Path to the ballot

See also: Florida law for legislatively-referred constitutional amendments

In order to qualify for the November 2010 ballot the proposed amendment must have been approved by a minimum of 60% in the both the House and the Senate. Both bill died in committee before being sent to the ballot.

2010 effort

On July 20, 2010, the start of a special session to discuss the proposed measure, a vote was held to adjourn the session. The House voted 67-44 in favor of ending the session. The session ended the same day, July 20, without a vote on referring the proposed amendment to the 2010 ballot.[34] The Senate voted 18-16 to adjourn.[14] August 4 marked the last day a proposed constitutional amendment can be sent to the state elections office.[35][36][37]

In reaction to the votes by the legislature to end the session, Gov. Crist said, "I am significantly disappointed for the people of Florida...I call this legislature the do-nothing legislature. And I'm going to give them hell for it." Additionally, Crist said at the time that he did not plan to call the legislature back for a second special session.[38]

Of the decision to adjourn the session, House Speaker Larry Cretul said, "The fact remains that he has called us here at the last possible moment to consider a constitutional amendment for which he never proposed language and permitted far too little time for reflection and review. That is a terrible way to propose constitutional changes." According to reports, Cretul and Senate President Jeffrey Atwater planned to review the oil spill situation in the Gulf and planned to convene later in 2010.[39]

See also

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Similar measures

Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Michigan Drilling Ban Amendment (2010)

Articles

External links

Proposed bills

Additional reading

Editorials

References

  1. 13 News, "Offshore drilling could appear on 2012 Florida ballot," February 9, 2011
  2. KeysNet.com,"Bipartisan appeal against oil drilling," February 12, 2011
  3. St. Petersburg Times,"Crist eyes special session to put drilling ban on November ballot," May 7, 2010
  4. The Ledger,"Special Session on Oil Spill In the Works," May 11, 2010
  5. The Palm Beach Post,"Crist leaning toward special session to curb drilling," May 8, 2010
  6. The Herald Tribune,"Drilling opponents push for ban in constitution," May 10, 2010
  7. 7.0 7.1 The Ledger: Polk Politics,"Democrats Push For Permanent Near Shore Drilling Ban," May 6, 2010
  8. The Miami Herald,"Florida offshore oil drilling ban amendment considered," May 7, 2010
  9. 9.0 9.1 The Daytona Beach News-Journal,"Offshore-oil-drilling ban might be on ballot," May 12, 2010
  10. Associated Press,"Crist, legislators maneuver over oil spill special session," July 3, 2010
  11. The Palm Beach Post,"Second oil session planned no matter what happens to drilling ban next week," July 16, 2010
  12. The Palm Beach Post: Post on Politics,"A second oil special session?," July 15, 2010
  13. Associated Press,"Fla. House adjourns oil drilling session, no vote," July 20, 2010
  14. 14.0 14.1 The Jacksonville Observer,"Constitutional Drilling Ban Dead Until 2012 at the Earliest," July 21, 2010
  15. St. Petersburg Times,"Florida Legislature adjourns, rejecting vote on constitutional amendment banning oil drilling," July 20, 2010
  16. The Palm Beach Post,"Crist open to anti-drilling constitutional amendment pushed by Dems," May 6, 2010
  17. St. Petersburg Times - The Buzz,"Update: Charlie Crist open to Alex Sink and Dem's call for ballot measure on oil drilling," May 6, 2010
  18. The Jacksonville Observer,"Crist and Lawmakers Set Toxic Course for Special Session," May 11, 2010
  19. Naples News,"Collier County stiffening opposition to oil drilling," May 25, 2010
  20. St. Petersburg Times: The Buzz,"Florida lawmakers in D.C. want amendment banning drilling," May 25, 2010
  21. Capitol News Service,"Number of Special Session Subjects Growing," July 12, 2010
  22. The Ledger,"House Resists Special Session On Gulf Oil Spill and Alternative Energies," May 11, 2010
  23. The Herald Tribune,"Clean up Florida's energy act," May 11, 2010
  24. FloridaToday.com,"Our views: Oil spill shows need for clean-energy policies," May 12, 2010
  25. St. Petersburg Times,"Crist needs to line up votes for drilling ban," May 14, 2010
  26. The News-Press,"No election year games with drilling: Editorial," May 8, 2010
  27. News Herald,"EDITORIAL: No need for session," May 12, 2010
  28. Think Progress,"Following oil spill disaster, 55 percent of Floridans now oppose offshore drilling," May 7, 2010
  29. Marco Island Florida,"Florida voter poll shows near reversal in oil-drilling stance," May 7, 2010
  30. The State Column,"Crist Supported and Offshore Drilling Opposed in New Poll," May 11, 2010
  31. News 13,"Exclusive News 13 Florida Decides Poll: The Offshore Drilling Debate," May 22, 2010
  32. Sun Sentinel,"Opposition to offshore drilling eases in Florida," August 13, 2010
  33. Orlando Sentinel,"Mason-Dixon: McCollum takes lead over Scott," August 12, 2010
  34. NPR,"Florida's Crist Dealt Blow Over Offshore Drilling Ban," July 21, 2010
  35. Associated Press,"Crist, legislators maneuver over oil spill special session," July 3, 2010
  36. Associated Press,"Fla. House adjourns oil drilling session, no vote," July 20, 2010
  37. St. Petersburg Times,"Florida Legislature adjourns, rejecting vote on constitutional amendment banning oil drilling," July 20, 2010
  38. The Palm Beach Post,"Crist says he won't call 'do-nothing legislature' back on oil," July 20, 2010
  39. Sunshine State News,"House Spikes Charlie Crist's Special Session," July 20, 2010