Fate of offshore drilling should be in voters hands

With a cap placed on the leak in the Deepwater Horizon oil rig Thursday, talk is now shifting toward what should be done next.

A special session will be held this week, where Florida legislators will consider putting a constitutional ban on drilling in state controlled waters, which are up to 10 miles off the coast, to the voters and allowing them to decide what’s best for Florida’s future.

Voters should be allowed to vote on the constitutional ban despite the fact that Florida is a hotly contested battleground where any issue can be made unnecessarily political.

According to a St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald survey of legislators, at least 14 Republicans and one Democrat that previously supported legislation allowing offshore drilling now support giving voters a choice.

However, there is still strong opposition to placing the issue on the ballot as political leaders in Florida have expressed.

Many are saying that the session, which was called by Gov. Charlie Crist, is a political ploy to garner votes for his Senate race.

“What a waste of time and energy,” said Cindy Graves, president of Florida Federation of Republican Women, according to the Times. “He is too much for words.”

A state statute enacted in 1990 already bans drilling off the coast. The constitutional ban would solidify it.

If Crist is playing politics, then his opponents, including many of his former Republican colleagues, are doing the same by opposing an initiative they feel will benefit the governor.

After witnessing one of the world’s greatest environmental disasters cast aside any doubt of how destructive deepwater oil drilling can be, regardless of its distance from the shore, Floridians may not be willing to take any further risks.

In April, before the spill, 66 percent of Floridians approved of offshore drilling. However, by June 9, 51 percent opposed it, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.

Instead of playing the same tired game of political bickering, politicians in Florida should consider working with the
governor toward putting the issue on the ballot.

BP and other companies operating in the Gulf can always move their platforms from an oily disaster zone where a government may hamper their exploits, but Floridians can never move their state.

Therefore, Florida voters should have a say on the matter as well.