Democratic AG hopefuls weigh in on special session

07/16/10 Kate Bradshaw
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Yesterday there was another twist in the lead-up to a special session where state lawmakers are expected to discuss a ban on oil drilling in state waters. Supporters of the drilling ban think Republican leaders are trying to stall the issue out of bitterness.

The special session is slated to start Tuesday, but House Speaker Larry Cretul wrote to lawmakers that they shouldn’t expect to be in Tallahassee for long. Cretul has the authority to prevent a vote on legislation. He and Senate President Jeff Atwater have said they also want to take up the claims process, and thus need more lead time. Both are Republicans. But state Senator Dan Gelber, a Democrat running for Attorney General, said the Republican leadership is dragging its feet on policy for the sake of politics.

"I'm not reading tea leaves. I mean the problem is the Republicans in the House, particularly are so in sense with their former party mate Gov. Crist that they almost can't see straight. And the result is I think that they're sort of overlooking what is good policy, which is near-shore drilling plan. I've been in support of that for years, and I think that this is the only time that we could pass it given the strength of the oil lobby. So I think we should go there, pass it, put it on the ballot, and let Floridians decide. But the problem right now is that some of the Republicans in leadership are in this political vortex where they just hate the governor so much that anything he proposes, they don't want to do. They need to get over that. They need to pass this and put it on the ballot for Floridians to make their judgment."

If a vote does take place, it would determine if voters will weigh a near-shore drilling ban when they hit the polls in November. The ban would be on the books in the form of an amendment to the state constitution. State Sen. Dave Aronberg, a Democrat who is also running for Attorney General, said a special session on the issue of drilling should also address more immediate aspects of the oil disaster.

"We could have some environmental rules. We could have some alternative energy. Maybe this is the time. Maybe now we've got the momentum on our side. But I think it's a wasted opportunity if we go up there at great taxpayers' expense to do one quick thing and then go home. And then only be brought back again as someone to do the rest of it. No, no, no. If we're up there, let's do it all at once."

Earlier this week, two Republican state lawmakers proposed three laws related to immigration, including one that mirrors Arizona’s extremely controversial SB 1070, for discussion during the session. Aronberg said the emergency legislative session should only deal with matters relating to the oil disaster.

"The only thing that should be dealt with in this emergency special session should be issues relating to the BP oil spill. That's why we're supposed to be up there. All the other issues can be dealt with in our regular session with the legislator, which will begin in March."

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