UPDATE 1-Florida legislature to consider oil drilling ban

* Florida law already bans drilling in state waters

* But constitutional ban would be harder to overturn

* Amendment would require approval by 60 pct of voters
(Adds detail, quotes)

By Michael Peltier

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., July 8 (BestGrowthStock) – Florida Governor
Charlie Crist on Thursday called for a special session of the
state legislature to consider a constitutional amendment to
strengthen the ban on oil drilling off Florida’s coast.

Drilling in state waters is already prohibited by statute
but putting the ban in the state’s constitution would make it
much more difficult to overturn, Crist said.

He said he would call lawmakers into session on July 20 for
four days to craft an amendment that would require approval by
the three-fifths of the state’s House of Representatives and
Senate by Aug. 4.

If it passed that hurdle, the proposal would go before
voters in the Nov. 2 general election.

“I think it’s important that we put this into our
constitution,” Crist told reporters at hastily scheduled news
conference. “Certainly, I think it’s important that we give the
people of Florida the opportunity to make this call.”

Crist has been urging lawmakers to propose a constitutional
ban for several weeks following the April 20 explosion at the
Deepwater Horizon rig, which ruptured BP’s (BP.L: ) (BP.N: )
undersea well and led to the biggest oil spill in U.S.
history.

Crist, who left the Republican Party to run for the U.S.
Senate as an independent, called the session despite a lack of
support from leaders in the Republican-led state House of
Representatives.

“The rightness of this is so clear, especially with what we
have experienced in the past 80 days or so in the Gulf of
Mexico. This is an issue that is so important to the future of
our our state,” the governor said.

He was expected to release a formal proclamation later on
Thursday outlining parameters of the session. He said it would
be succinct and targeted specifically at drilling.

Florida’s $6 billion-a-year tourism industry depends on
pristine beaches and fishing, boating and diving in unspoiled
waters.

Opponents said the current statutory moratorium on drilling
in the Gulf is sufficient, but Crist said it could easily be
lifted by future legislatures.

“I know it’s barred statutorily, but I also know that just
last year they tried to change that statute and drill holes
three miles (5 km) off the coast of Florida,” Crist said.
“That’s why it’s the will of the people who should be heard on
this.”

Republican Senate President Jeff Atwater generally supports
a ban while incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon, also a
Republican, has opposed a constitutional ban.

(Editing by Jane Sutton and Vicki Allen)

UPDATE 1-Florida legislature to consider oil drilling ban