During the May 11, 2010, meeting of the governor and cabinet, Gov Crist announced that he would call the Legislature into a special session, probably during the week of May 24, in response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The governor said he wanted the Legislature to address a constitutional amendment to ban offshore drilling and to enact legislation in support of alternative energy sources.
Both of the leading candidates for governor, Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum and Democrat Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, indicated support for a constitutional amendment, while the other Cabinet member, term-limited Republican Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, said, “I think we ought to know all the facts before we overreact.”
The proposed constitutional amendment would ban oil drilling in coastal waters within 10.6 miles of the shoreline. In addition, the governor would seek legislative approval for incentives to support renewable energy projects such as a $1-a-month surcharge on electric bills that would finance construction of solar power plants. The governor's efforts in behalf of renewables in previous legislative sessions have not been successful.
Efforts by drilling advocates to lift the state's current ban on offshore drilling also were unsuccessful in the 2010 regular session of the Legislature.
Gov. Crist said, “I want to talk about wind, nuclear, solar, natural gas, and other alternative means to provide energy to our people. Whether it be wind, solar, natural gas, nuclear — what have you — to wean ourselves off this dirty stuff is just the right thing to do.”
Many legislators expressed opposition either to the concept of a constitutional ban on drilling or to the timing of the proposed special session. House Speaker Larry Cretul (R-Ocala) said, “Our state resources and leadership should be focused on solving the real problem at hand, not fighting political campaigns at taxpayers' expense. Drilling in Florida waters is currently banned 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 political points.”
Senate President Jeff Atwater (R-North Palm Beach), who generally supports renewable energy and opposes drilling, also objected to the proposed session, saying, “Before we enter a special session, which could cost taxpayers upwards of $40,000 daily, we must find common ground with our partners in the governor's office and the Florida House.”
A Palm Beach Post survey of 18 House members who represent Gulf Coast districts found that 14 of the representatives opposed a special session, even though they might ultimately support a constitutional ban on drilling. Rep. Ron Saunders (D-Key West), who is expected to become House Minority Leader in the 2010 – 2012 biennium, said, “I don't see the urgency.” Rep. Leonard Bembry (D-Madison), a drilling opponent, said, “We haven't even stopped the oil yet. We don't have all the facts yet.”
Other Democrats supported the idea. Rep. Keith Fitzgerald (D-Sarasota) said, “This is our opportunity. This is a good time for the people to make the decision, while the costs and the dangers are in the forefront of people's minds.”