TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Voters will get a chance to decide this fall whether to ban nearshore oil and gas drilling and prevent people from vaping or using electronic cigarettes in many public places, under a proposed constitutional amendment approved Monday.
Without debate, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission on Monday voted 33-3 to back a single proposed amendment (Proposal 6004) that includes the drilling and vaping issues.
The 37-member commission approved a series of proposed amendments Monday, amid repeated questions about linking multiple issues in single proposals.
Commissioner Brecht Heuchan, chairman of the commission’s Style and Drafting Committee, said the drilling and vaping issues were linked because sponsors worked together with a moniker of “clean air, clean water.”
“If anything went together, it was those two,” Heuchan said.
The proposed ban on vaping and electronic cigarettes in workplaces was sponsored by Commissioner Lisa Carlton, a former state senator from Sarasota County. Commissioner Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, a former mayor of Sewall’s Point, sponsored the proposed drilling ban. She handed out seashells to fellow commissioners after the vote.
In a committee meeting last month, Thurlow-Lippisch called her proposal a needed “statement” to help the economy, wildlife and quality of life for Floridians.
“It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, or black or white or an alien from outer space, if you get to come here, you can walk the beaches and enjoy what they are,” Thurlow-Lippisch said.
Florida law currently prohibits the state from granting leases to drill for oil or natural gas in state coastal waters. But putting into the Constitution a ban on exploration and extraction of oil and natural gas in coastal waters would be more permanent.
The anti-drilling proposal comes amid debate about plans by President Donald Trump’s administration to allow oil and gas drilling in federal waters off various parts of the country.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appeared in January in Tallahassee and said drilling would not occur off Florida’s coasts, but the administration’s stance has continued to draw questions. The federal issue involves waters beyond the nation’s outer continental shelf --- a jurisdictional term describing submerged lands 10.36 statutory miles off Florida's West Coast and three nautical miles off the East Coast.
Carlton’s vaping measure, meanwhile, would expand a 2002 voter-approved constitutional amendment that banned smoking tobacco in workplaces, including gathering spots such as restaurants. The proposal would expand that prohibition to apply to “vapor generating electronic devices.”
Carlton, in a committee meeting last month, recalled watching her gymnast daughter work out at a gym and sitting behind someone who was vaping.
“I think it’s time to clean up our restaurants, our malls, our movie theaters, so we can all breathe clean air again, which is what the 2002 constitutional amendment intended,” Carlton said.
The Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years to evaluate possible changes to the Constitution, is taking final votes on 12 proposed constitutional amendments. Measures that go on the Nov. 6 ballot will need approval from 60 percent of voters to pass.