>Florida Governor Charlie Crist has called a special session of the state legislature to debate a constitutional amendment that would ban drilling off the state's coasts. But since Florida has banned leasing and drilling in its waters since 1990, Crist's critics are calling foul. Marco Rubio, Crist's Republican opposition for Senate, called the special session a "political sideshow," and Larry Cretul, speaker of the Florida House, called it a "political ploy to further the future of politicians."
So what exactly would an amendment accomplish? Crist's own press secretary has acknowledged that it would differ from the current ban "simply in the fact that the constitutional amendment would be from a majority vote of Floridians." In essence, it would be a gesture, an outlet for enraged Florida residents who are watching oil drift onto their beaches despite longstanding protection of their drilling waters. The amendment would also further entrench the current ban, making it much harder for legislators to overturn.
After the Exxon Valdez spill, the Florida House and Senate passed two statutes: one to ban leasing off the state's shores, and another to ban drilling. The ban extends from three to 10 miles, depending on the region. A few years ago, the state purchased pre-existing leases. The federal government also bans drilling in federal waters off the eastern Gulf of Mexico, so the restrictions are fairly airtight.