Dueling oil spill meetings

Fort Pierce, FL – As engineers figure out how to stop oil from gushing in the Gulf, the two leading candidates for Florida's next U.S. Senator are putting forth plans to deal with the spill's economic impacts. Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist held dueling oil spill meetings this week.

Later, we'll hear from Florida Public Radio's Scott Finn about Crist's stop in St. Petersburg, but first, Steve Newborn talks about Rubio's "11 Simple Ways to Help the Gulf Coast Economy Recover."

[At HIS meeting, Marco Rubio didn't just roll out his new list. He took Charlie Crist to task for calling a special session to ban oil drilling off Florida's coast.

RUBIO: What we're getting are Washington-style gimmicks, like a call for a special session to ban what's already illegal in Florida. Basically spending $200,000 of taxpayer money to haul legislators to Tallahassee to basically hold a campaign event - using the tragedy of the Gulf oil spill as a backdrop and a prop in a political campaign.

Rubio is a strong supporter of drilling in portions of the Gulf already open to oil and gas exploration. He's vague about whether he would support drilling closer to shore.

RUBIO: What we cannot do is crippling ourselves by stopping domestic energy production. REPORTER: Does that include drilling in Florida waters three miles offshore? RUBIO: Our production now doesn't require it to be drilled off Florida's coasts. So I think there's pros and cons to it - I know the governor supported drilling off the coast, as close as five miles, as recently as six months ago. So the truth of the matter is that could be debated by the Legislature in terms of whether it could be done safely or not.

The Republican spoke at the Best Western Bay Harbor hotel on Rocky Point. As the sun shone on Tampa Bay in the background, Rubio unveiled a list of 11 ideas to help people affected economically by the BP oil spill.

Rubio focused on cutting sales and property taxes in the areas most affected by the spill.

RUBIO: A Gulf opportunity zone - similar to the one that was created in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina - that would provide targeted tax relief and would authorize the establishment of tax-free bonds that can be sold by states.

It's not his first list of ideas. While he was speaker of the Florida House, Rubio unleashed "100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future." The latest list includes relaxing bag limits for commercial fishermen and stopping foreclosures for people affected by the Gulf spill.

For Florida Public Radio, I'm Steve Newborn in Tampa.