MANATEE — Local lawmakers say there’s still a chance that they will call a second special legislative session in September to address Gulf oil spill issues.
“I have a feeling that by mid-August, the speaker of the House and the Senate president will make a final decision,” Florida House Speaker Pro Tempore Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, said Wednesday.
The House has set up six work groups for legislative study of long-term economic recovery, what criminal and civil penalties arise from environmental disasters, preparation for future disasters and other areas of concern, he said.
“I know most committees now are looking at preliminary information; the ideas will solidify in the next couple weeks,” Reagan said.
Final committee reports are due Aug. 31, according to the House website.
State Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, whose district includes parts of Manatee County, is on the committee reviewing the scope of private sector damages and processes for compensation.
“The House decided it needed work groups to begin addressing from the House side these critical matters of economy, environment and energy,” said Rouson.
So far, his group has been e-mailing and reviewing information via conference call, but Rouson said its chairman had been querying whether members might be available for a face-to-face meeting next week in Pensacola.
“It probably is time to sit down and go over this stuff, and actually meet,” said Rouson, adding that he hopes another special session will be called.
“I’m hopeful there will be such,” he said. “There are still businesses and communities that are suffering and need relief, and shouldn’t be made to wait until the regular session.”
The regular legislative session is still months away, slated to convene March 8 in Tallahassee.
Gov. Charlie Crist called legislators to a special session last month to consider putting a constitutional amendment on the fall ballot banning oil exploration and drilling in state waters. But legislators adjourned almost immediately without acting, saying they needed time for more thorough study.
“I really have not heard any more discussion about a special session in September,” the governor’s spokesman, Sterling Ivey, said Wednesday.
“The governor said that he would certainly work with members should they decide to come back and focus on economic recovery.”
Crist is not planning to call another special session, Ivey said, adding that House and Senate leaders may call lawmakers into special session themselves without the governor’s authorization.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.