Behind the News, Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation

Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation: Florida House passes offshore oil drilling bill

In my few years as a reporter, I’ve followed four different state legislatures — not necessarily reporting on them for the publications I worked for, but keeping an eye for my local readers. And in those years, I’ve never seen a politically-motivated “fuck you” like HB 1219.

Originally proposed by Republican Charles Van Zant and re-written by his colleague Rep. Dean Cannon, this bill would allow oil and gas drilling three miles or more from Florida’s coast. Taking advantage of President Bush’s relaxation of a federal law that prohibited such drilling, if this bill passes the Florida Senate, we could begin to see rigs right off our favorite beaches. Particulary insidious, the revamped version of this bill was released just 10 days before the session is to end.

I’m not going to get into the huge issue of drilling for oil domestically. But there are significant questions about how drilling so close to Florida’s shores would affect our tourist economy and it does neither side justice to bring up such an important bill so close to the end of session. (I think the term is “railroading” a bill through, right?) Obviously, these lawmakers are not responding to a crisis, but trying to send a (right wing talk show-inspired) political message to the nation. That’s irresponsible to Florida’s citizens.

In fact, a handful of Republicans — all from the Tampa Bay area — opposed the bill. Big shout-outs to Bill Galvano of Bradenton, Jim Frishe of St. Petersburg and Ed Hooper of Clearwater.

Unfortunately, their opposition wasn’t enough. Luckily, the Senate does not seemed poised to take up this cause:

“I’m not receptive to it,” said Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach. “That is a really significantly important issue and one that I think would, frankly at our end, would take some serious review.”

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