Florida lawmakers block move on oil drilling ban

Tue Jul 20, 2010 7:23pm GMT

* Florida law already bans drilling in state waters

* Constitutional ban would be harder to overturn

* Amendment would have needed approval by 60 pct of voters

By Michael Peltier

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., July 20 (Reuters) - Florida's Republican-led legislature on Tuesday rejected a call by Governor Charlie Crist to consider a constitutional amendment to strengthen the ban on oil drilling off the state's coast.

The Florida House of Representatives voted 67-44 to adjourn a special session without taking up Crist's proposal to let voters put a permanent ban on offshore drilling in the state's constitution.

The vote, coming against the backdrop of BP's (BP.L: Quote) (BP.N: Quote) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, was largely along party lines with most Republicans supporting adjournment and Democrats in favor of continuing the debate.

The vote was widely seen as part of a bid by Republicans to weaken Crist and deny him a victory he could use after leaving the Republican Party to run for the U.S. Senate as an independent.

Drilling in state waters is already prohibited by statute but putting the ban in Florida's constitution would make it much more difficult to overturn.   Continued...

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