Charlie Crist, Alex Sink Back in Tallahassee for Drilling Petition
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Former Gov. Charlie Crist and former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, fresh off electoral defeats last fall, were back in the spotlight Wednesday, this time pushing for a ballot initiative that would prevent offshore oil and natural gas drilling in Florida's territorial waters.
A makeshift dune was created as the backdrop of a press conference in front of the Old Capitol building, where Sink and Crist gathered with Democratic legislators and organizers of Save Our Florida Beaches to urge Florida citizens to sign a petition to put the measure on the 2012 ballot.
"The risk of an oil spill close to our beaches is something we absolutely cannot afford," Sink said.
"We need to make sure that the people are heard. Their will should be heard and there's only one way to get that done," Crist said.
Crist called a special session in July 2010 when the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was 3 months old in order to pass a similar measure, but the Republican-held Legislature balked at the move by Crist, who had left the GOP ahead of the Republican primary during his U.S. Senate run.
Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, is hoping to get his fellow legislators to put the constitutional amendment on the ballot, but it's clear he expects the petition drive to be the most reliable way to get this done.
"I'm confident the signatures will be obtained and the amendment will be on the ballot. However, I'm hopeful my Republican colleagues in the Legislature will support this legislation," Kriseman said.
Kriseman also chided his Republican colleagues for not passing legislation to prevent offshore drilling in the first place, during the July special session.
"(Crist) called us all here in July and then the Legislature decided to play politics," Kriseman said.
In order to be put on the ballot, petitioners must gather the signatures of at least 8 percent of the total ballots cast statewide in the last election. In 2010, that number was 676,811 signatures.
Some business groups, though, like the Florida Chamber of Commerce, buoyed by sweeping success in the 2010 elections, will be pushing for reform of the process of placing constitutional amendments on the ballot. The Chamber released its legislative priorities Wednesday, which recommended regulation of paid signature gatherers, although doesn’t include a specific plan.
Save Our Florida Beaches will host concerts and film festivals -- with dates to be announced in the coming weeks -- to try to gather signatures for the petition and raise money. Crist, who co-chairs Save Our Florida Beaches along with Sink, said he will help raise money for the move to put the measure on the ballot.
"As your governor, I fought to protect the Everglades, promote renewable resources and maintain sound growth-management policies, and we need to continue the fight to preserve Florida with this amendment," Crist said.
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