It's costing taxpayers up to 55-thousand dollars a day, and it may accomplish nothing. That's the reality of the special session of the legislature. It convenes at noon Tuesday, to talk about a possible constitutional ban on oil and gas drilling in Florida waters. Those extend out 10.3 miles from shore.
"It is a waste of time and money. It is a publicity stunt for Charlie Crist," said Barry Gerber, a business owner in Punta Gorda.
Governor Crist abandoned the Republican Party a few months ago to run for U-S Senate as an independent. Crist called the special session, even though republicans who control the legislature, do not want the gathering, or an amendment to put to the voters in November.
"We do not need it, we already ban drilling in waters out to 10 miles," said Rep. Paige Kreegel of Port Charlotte. The republican says the session probably will last only a day, but it will give members a chance to begin studying real economic help for victims of the gulf oil disaster.
"We probably will form a joint committee of the House and Senate, and find ways to compensate individuals, businesses, and local governments for their losses. We could look at tax relief. We could look at ways to send the bills for relief to British Petroleum," said Kreegel. But those ideas will take weeks to forumalate, he said, and that would mean a second special session, perhaps in early September.
Some taxpayers want the chance to vote on the constitutional amendment. Glenn Hall of Punta Gorda is one of those. He told WINK: "We need to do it. We should have the chance to get the will of the people."
Governor Charlie Crist denies calling the session for political reasons. He says people need to vote on the ban, and already he is criticizing republican leaders who may not bring the issue to a vote this week.
The state reimburses the travel costs of 160 lawmakers and some of their staff members, for a special session. The state also pays each lawmaker 110-dollars a day for housing. Additional costs include capitol security and utilities. The total bill, according to some lawmakers we talked with, amounts to 50 to 55-thousand dollars a day.