Nov. 05–The Constitution Revision Commission opted in assembling Amendment 9 to combine a pair of ballot questions likely to draw opposition from big oil and big tobacco, two groups with significant lobby muscle.
Amendment 9 calls upon voters to support a ban on offshore drilling in state waters while also opting to prohibit vaping in “enclosed indoor workspaces.”
The Florida Petroleum Council and Vets4Energy Florida are listed among the groups that have lined up in opposition to Amendment 9.
“If this amendment passes, we will forego not only a safe process for developing the energy we depend on, but also the opportunity to add more than $2.6 billion to our economy over the next two decades and provide jobs to more than 56,000 people through drilling in state and federal waters,” C.S. Bennet, a member of Vets4Energy Florida, told the Florida League of Cities.
Former state Senate President Don Gaetz, who sat on the CRC, said he’s confident tobacco companies will also join the battle against the measure.
“The tobacco companies understand their new business model has to include vaping,” he said. “I can see big tobacco money coming into play.”
Florida banned smoking in workplaces and most other indoor public places in 2002. Amendment 9 would, as of July 1, 2019, place the same restrictions on vaping. Vaping would still be allowed where cigarette smoking is allowed. Bars, some retail establishments and “smoking” hotel rooms would be among the places still open to vaping.
Arrayed against the tobacco and oil are 38 agencies and business interests, including the Florida Wildlife Federation and re-Think Energy Florida.
The Florida Wildlife Federation has been battling efforts to drill in state waters within nine miles of the coast since the mid-1990’s, Federation President Manley Fuller said, and drew up the proposal for the moratorium that was presented to the CRC by Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, a commission appointee and former mayor of the town of Seawall’s Point.
“We believe passage of this amendment is necessary because the legislature as late as 2009 seriously considered allowing this to happen. Putting this ban in the Constitution permanently protects against oil and gas exploration and drilling in Florida waters from the beach to the federal boundary,” Fuller said. “We don’t need to have oil and gas drilling closer to our state waters than it is now and we don’t need to industrialize our state waters.”
Fuller said that Florida’s beaches would be immediately impacted by an oil spill within nine miles of the coast.
Amendment 9 is one of three overturned at the Circuit Court level following a challenge by former Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead and Robert Barnas. The men contended that bundling amendment questions — combining two or more issues in a single proposal — would violate voters’ First Amendment rights.
Amendments 9, 11 and 7 are being reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court, which has indicated it will rule “expeditiously.”
But because the first of this year’s ballots had to have been mailed to members of the military by Tuesday, Aug. 2, Amendment 9 and the other amendments reviewed by the Supreme Court will appear on Florida ballots whether they are ultimately thrown out or not, said Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux.
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