Fla. lawmakers say no to oil drilling ban

July 20, 2010 at 5:00 PM
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla., July 20 (UPI) -- The Florida Legislature has voted against considering a state constitutional amendment that would ban all offshore oil drilling, officials said.

Polls had indicated Floridians would back the proposed amendment that would ban offshore oil drilling as lawmakers met to discuss the issue Tuesday, The Miami Herald reported.

A scheduled four-day special session called by Gov. Charlie Crist on the constitutional ban lasted only 49 minutes as the Republican-led Legislature defeated Crist's plan, the newspaper said.

The party-line vote to adjourn the session was 67-44, with Republicans supporting adjournment and Democrats in favor of continuing the debate.

In the visitors' gallery, a heckler shouted that all 67 were "in the pocket of BP.''

Protesters from oil-slicked regions of Florida were in the Capitol in Tallahassee as were dozens of business owners, restaurant workers, defense industry contractors and hotel operators, the newspaper said.

"We want to make it clear that we are paying very close attention," said Cathy Harrelson, a St. Petersburg environmental activist and an organizer of a rally to support the constitutional ban.

Recent public opinion polls indicated Crist appears more in line with the public than legislators, the Times said. A Progress Florida poll released Monday indicated 71 percent of Florida voters want the chance to vote on the issue and 50 percent of those surveyed oppose drilling within 10 miles of Florida's beaches.

A Quinnipiac University poll in April indicated 66 percent of Floridians surveyed supported more offshore oil drilling in coastal waters. However, June 9 poll results found those numbers reversed, with only 42 percent support offshore drilling.

A St. Petersburg Times-Miami Herald review of campaign contributions to legislators and their political committees indicated between Jan. 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010, lawmakers got $278,452 from the oil and gas industry and affiliated companies. The review did not include donations received since Crist endorsed the proposed ban or since the April 20, when the Transocean Deepwater Horizon rig leased by BP exploded, killing 11 workers and spewing millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

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