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Proposed: Florida Constitutional Amendment 9 Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces 

Amendment 9: Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces

Ballot summary: “Prohibits drilling for the exploration or extraction of oil and natural gas beneath all state-owned waters between the mean high water line and the state’s outermost territorial boundaries. Adds use of vapor-generating electronic devices to current prohibition of tobacco smoking in enclosed indoor workplaces with exceptions; permits more restrictive local vapor ordinances."

 

Florida voters could face twelve different proposed amendments to the state Constitution on Nov. 6 – one of the longest lists ever. The amendments include complex changes to tax policy, banning offshore oil drilling and greyhound racing, expanding gambling, automatically restoring voting rights for ex-felons, setting new rules on lobbying, and whether Florida should ban vaping in public places.

Some of the amendments “bundle” several different ideas into one, meaning voters may be forced to vote for something they don’t like in order to approve something they want, or vice versa. (Three of the amendments are mired in a legal challenge that’s before the Florida Supreme Court)

What it’s about?

Amendment 9 has two different topics – a ban on offshore oil drilling and a ban on “vaping” (puffing on e-cigarettes) in workplaces and public places. Voters will have to cast a single yes or no vote for both.

Amendment 9 is also currently under review by the Florida Supreme Court. A lower court ruled that it and two other amendments should be thrown out because they deal with more than one subject and that could confuse voters.

Amendment 9 would:

Enshrine an offshore oil drilling ban into the state Constitution. Supporters of the amendment were spurred on by attempts in the state Legislature and by the Trump administration to push for oil and gas drilling rigs closer to Florida’s shore. An existing moratorium on putting drilling rigs near Florida’s coastlines expires in 2022.

But oil and gas lobbyists have begun a new push to allow exploration off Florida, emboldened by the Trump administration’s announcement that it would open nearly all U.S. waters to drilling. President Donald Trump’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Florida would be exempt, but that’s only a statement – not an official policy or a law. Putting Amendment 9 in the state Constitution would insulate it from year-to-year politics.

Amendment 9 would prohibit drilling in waters that belong to the state – up to nine miles off Florida’s Gulf coast and three miles out into the Atlantic.

Ban people from “vaping” (puffing on e-cigarettes) in indoor workplaces and most indoor public places. Florida banned tobacco smoking in workplaces and in most indoor public places in 2002. This would add vaping to that ban. Vaping would still be allowed in locations that allow cigarette smoking, such as bars, some retail establishments, and “smoking” hotel rooms. The amendment requires the state Legislature to pass vaping restrictions to go into effect on July 1, 2019.

Who’s for it?

Environmental groups like the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the Gulf Restoration Network, Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Ocean Conservancy, the American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network, the League of Women Voters, the Florida Policy Institute, Progress Florida

Who’s against it?

Associated Industries of Florida; the Florida Petroleum Council, Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce

Other key points:

The offshore oil drilling ban only applies to state waters. It would not ban drilling or oil and gas exploration in federal waters, which extend past three miles from shore on the Atlantic side and past nine miles on the Gulf side.

Amendment 9 needs 60 percent approval to pass.

Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table . She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida , The Book of the Everglades , and Between Two Rivers . Her new book - Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles - comes out this fall.

This piece appeared in the Florida Phoenix and was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

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