Gov. Charlie Crist on Thursday abruptly called for a special session of the Legislature in less than two weeks to ask lawmakers to let voters consider putting a ban on offshore oil drilling in the state Constitution.
Crist said the July 20-23 session will be devoted to one issue -- "a rifle shot," he called it, intended to tap into widespread disgust over the still-uncapped Deepwater Horizon blowout off the Louisiana coast, which is decimating the Panhandle's tourist-dependent economy.
But in doing so the governor is trampling on a fundamental rule of Tallahassee politics: Don't call a special session without an agreed-upon deal.
"The rightness of this is so clear, especially dealing with what we've experienced in the past 80 days or so in the Gulf of Mexico," Crist said. "I just don't think I'd be doing my duty as your governor if I didn't call this session and at least try, and I'm hoping that we'll be successful and we'll see."
Republicans reacted with criticism or silence, and Democrats praised Crist's move as overdue. A special session costs about $50,000 a day, largely for travel for all 160 legislators.
"Legislative action should be based on solid data and empirical analysis, rather than political contrivance," Senate President Jeff Atwater said in a letter to senators, adding that additional measures should be considered during the session to help taxpayers and business owners. Crist's proclamation, however, restricts the special session to the drilling amendment. To take up other subjects, lawmakers would need a two-thirds vote in each chamber.
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