By South Florida Business Journal

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is calling for a special session this month to ask legislators to consider a constitutional ban on offshore oil drilling.

The proclamation, issued early Thursday afternoon, calls for the session to be July 20-23.

The Legislature would have to approve any constitutional amendment by Aug. 4 to make it onto the November general election ballot.

During a Thursday press conference, Crist said Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, would be the Senate sponsor of the proposed amendment. No House sponsor was announced.

Crist spokesmanâ¿¿s, Sterling Ivey, said in an email that the house doesnâ¿¿t currently support the ban.

The governor ⿿has called house leadership several times but there is not support from the House at this time,⿝ Ivey said. ⿿He is moving forward with calling legislators back to Tallahassee because he believes it is important that Floridians have the opportunity to put a ban in the state constitution.⿝

Because of the expense involved, the governor typically wonâ¿¿t call a special session unless support for an issue is certain.

Ivey rebuffed speculation that Crist might be calling the special session to build political capital for Novemberâ¿¿s U.S. Senate race.

Crist ⿿said earlier today, this is not about politics,⿝ Ivey wrote. ⿿As governor of the state of Florida he feels it is his duty to protect Florida and allow the voters to have a choice in the off shore drilling decision.⿝

A call to House majority leader Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach, was not immediately returned.

In a memo to state senators, Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, took aim at Cristâ¿¿s call for the special session.

⿿Unfortunately, while the Governor⿿s call for a special session does not address the substantive concerns of the citizens of the Gulf, it does afford us the opportunity to carefully develop and effectuate the kind of meaningful and long lasting reforms that the situation and the people affected deserve,⿝ Atwater wrote. ⿿Given the costs and disruption of a special session, legislative action should be based on solid data and empirical analysis, rather than political contrivance.⿝

Current state law forbids drilling in Floridaâ¿¿s waters, Atwater said, though Crist has consistently noted that legislators were trying to overturn that longstanding ban prior to the spill.

Cristâ¿¿s position on oil drilling has shifted a few times in recent years.

Initially, he was in the camp of most Florida politicians who have been historically opposed to drilling regardless of their political affiliation.

However, the governor came out in favor of drilling when he was under consideration to be John McCainâ¿¿s vice presidential running mate in the 2008 election.

After the oil disaster, he changed his position again and has been leading the charge for the constitutional ban.

Crist also took heat from the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

⿿A special session to debate something already illegal is a complete waste of taxpayer dollars and time that could be spent developing a plan for economic recovery,⿝ chamber President Mark Wilson said in a news release. ⿿The Florida Chamber of Commerce is deeply concerned about the effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and strongly believes our immediate focus should be on cleanup and helping businesses and individuals get back on their feet. Now is the time for real leadership that addresses the real challenges Floridians are facing today and in the months and years ahead.⿝

Copyright 2010 American City Business Journals

Copyright 2010