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Charlie Crist ready to take on Legislature, although special session is out for now; insurance bill veto appears likely

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From the Florida Tribune: Gov. Charlie Crist’s running battle with the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature appears unlikely to end anytime soon — although the governor is now backing off plans to call lawmakers back to town in the next month.

Crist, who was in Panama City on Monday to celebrate Memorial Day, told the Florida Tribune that he doesn’t anticipate calling lawmakers back to Tallahassee during the month of June. Crist wants legislators to put on the November ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban offshore oil drilling in Florida waters.

“I think that it probably wouldn’t be until a little later in the summer, that would be my best guess,” said Crist.

Crist said the House resistance at the drilling ban remains the main obstacle and that the outcome may depend on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill itself which so far has not directly threatened the shores of the state

“If this stuff starts hitting our shore that could create a dramatic change,” said Crist. “I still think we need to do the ban.”

But the new independent candidate for U.S. Senate does plan to take on the Legislature in other ways.

Crist appears ready to veto on Tuesday the comprehensive property insurance bill, SB 2044, even though it has the backing of Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty and the insurance industry. He said he talked with McCarty’s staff over the weekend about the bill, but he said “I’m concerned for the consumers, I’ll leave it at that.” Crist has until midnight on Tuesday to sign the bill, veto it, or let it become law without his signature.

The property insurance bill includes a provision that would make it easier for insurers to raise rates up to 10 percent to cover items such as the cost of reinsurance or to make up for inflation. The measure also puts a three-year limit on when someone can file a claim from a hurricane and it changes how much insurers have to pay out initially for structural damage.

Crist, who spent time on Monday afternoon at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post, talked to a retired veteran who urged him to veto the insurance bill. Thomas St. Angelo told Crist that the insurance industry just wants to help out “millionaires” and not the general public. Crist listened to him and then handed him a card with his cellphone on it and told him to expect a call on Tuesday.

St. Angelo said that his property insurance bills got so high that he has gone without a policy the last three years.

Crist also on Monday that he has asked his general counsel to draw up a friend of the court brief in support of a lawsuit aimed at knocking off the ballot a redistricting amendment passed by state legislators. Several groups — including the NAACP and the League of Women Voters — filed a lawsuit earlier this month that asks a court to knock Amendment 7 off the ballot.

Lawmakers put the amendment on the 2010 ballot in response to two citizen-backed amendments on redistricting that will also go before voters. Legislators say their amendment is needed to clarify the citizen amendment and to ensure minority districts remain intact. But the groups that filed the lawsuit called the legislative measure a “poison pill” amendment that is meant to mislead voters and will nullify the citizen amendments. Crist has already come out in favor of the two FairDistrictsFlorida.org amendments that would impose new standards on how legislators draw districts.

Crist angered lawmakers on Friday when he vetoed millions from the state’s $70 billion budget. House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, responded by saying the Legislature may sue Crist because the governor used his line-item veto power to wipe out budget mandates contained in the state’s new spending plan.

Crist, for example, vetoed a plan to shift $160 million from the state’s road-building fund into the account used to provide money for public schools. Lawmakers tried to make the measure veto-proof by putting in a mandate that schools would lose money if Crist vetoed the source of funding. But Crist vetoed both the fund shift and the mandate.

The governor said on Monday that he didn’t think it would be a “good expenditure of funds” for legislators to sue him over budget vetoes especially since it could result in schools getting less money.

“Well, they certainly have the right do so,” he said of a lawsuit. “Frankly I don’t think it would be a good expenditure of funds. I don’t know why you want to sue to take away money from education.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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