The Skywriter

Welcome to Washington, Senator Lemieux (R-FL)

28
Aug

Welcome to Washington, Senator Lemieux (R-FL)

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By 1Sky policy intern Ben Wessel. -- Luis

After weeks of rumors, Republican Florida Governor Charlie Crist announced this morning that George LeMieux would replace retiring Republican Senator Mel Martinez in the US Senate. LeMieux, a longtime Crist ally and confidant (as well as former Crist chief of staff and campaign manager), will hold the seat until January 2011. Crist is favored to win that seat in the November 2010 elections.

For 1Sky and other climate advocates, the appointment of LeMieux brings up one central question, “Will (soon-to-be) Senator LeMieux vote for a climate bill?” Martinez was a moderate voice in the Senate, and a definite swing vote on climate (he voted for cloture on last year's climate bill). It’s no secret that LeMieux’s policy stances on Capitol Hill won’t differ much from Crist’s, and LeMieux could spend much of his short tenure as a Senator praising the Governor as a worthy successor. Less clear, however, is what sort of support the LeMieux-Crist camp will give a climate bill when it reaches the Senate floor.

In the past, Governor Crist has been one of the most vocal Republican supporters of clean energy and climate legislation, co-hosting a well-publicized international climate summit with green guv buddy Arnold Schwarzenegger, signing an executive order calling for a reduction of Florida’s greenhouse gas emissions, and supporting and signing off on a statewide cap-and-trade policy.

LeMieux, as one of Crist’s tightest buddies, has supported Crist’s actions publicly and effusively, and stressed the need for climate action. On his “The LeMieux Report” website:

As the second fastest growing state with respect to annual increase in greenhouse gases (GHG), the creation of a cap and trade program was necessary and timely to address the challenge of climate change.

In the Palm Beach Post:

The governor has been doing a lot of reading; he's been studying this subject...There might have been a time where the jury was out, but the jury is in now, and we know this is an issue. We can't afford to ignore it and be wrong.

In his “Boardroom Brief” blog:

Florida’s clean energy economy should be among the top in the nation...it is important to look at alternative energy solutions and build a foundation that will have a positive long-term impact on Florida’s economy.

Recently, however, the Crist camp has done an about-face on climate and energy. Crist has received mounting criticism from fellow Republicans for his progressive stances, and it seems the heat is beginning to get to him. The Miami Herald reports:

Crist looks ready to cancel his [annual] climate-change summit and is backing away from advocating a ``cap-and-trade'' energy policy. At his well-publicized climate summit last summer, Crist pushed a number of energy plans to encourage renewable energy development and establish a cap-and-trade market that would penalize fossil-fuel use. But Crist's plans were shredded by the Republican Legislature and his cap-and-trade proposal has been bashed as a ``tax'' by his Republican U.S. Senate opponent, Marco Rubio, who has been ardently courting the GOP's conservative wing.

There’s little doubt that LeMieux will be a friend of and spokesman for the Crist camp during his time in Washington (after being interviewed for the job, he described himself to the media as “a Charlie Crist Republican”).

The essential question for 1Sky and climate advocates across the country is this: how will LeMieux and Crist choose to stand on climate -- with their old vigor and aggressiveness, or with their more recent cautiousness? The answer could make a world of difference.

We have has been working with allies like Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) and Faiths United for Sustainable Energy (FUSE) in Florida for years, and will continue to support immediate federal action on climate and energy. From the massive potential for solar power in the Sunshine State to the need for strong coastal management, Florida has much to gain by embracing strong climate policy. As we welcome Senator LeMieux to Washington, we will be pushing for a continuation of the successful climate policies implemented by “Crist Republicans” in Florida.

Can’t wait for LeMieux’s views on the news (America’s new favorite rhyme!)? Check out his weekly video updates on YouTube. Nothing like superhero theme music and Die Hard-inspired graphics to get me pumped for “your weekly source for issues affecting business, law and politics in Florida!”

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