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Poll shows solar power amendment backed by utilities gets 77% support from Floridians

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A June online poll of Floridians by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute shows Floridians supporting two different alternative energy proposals that they’ll get the chance to vote for, one in August, and another in November.

This fall, Floridians will vote on Amendment One, the controversial solar power initiative that grants Florida residents the right to own or lease equipment that produces solar energy for personal use. While it’s strongly backed by the public utility companies in the state, it seems to be extremely popular with the public, with the measure getting 77 percent support. Only seven percent oppose the measure, with another 16 percent undecided.

Frank Orlando, political scientist and director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute, says the politics of Amendment 1 are “interesting because it is being supported by the large energy companies. Editorials have railed against the bill, but as of yet, opponents haven’t mobilized to stop the measure.”

The Florida Supreme Court approved the amendment’s language by a slim 4-3 majority earlier this year. The ballot summary says the amendment gives individual consumers a constitutional right to own or lease solar equipment, that governments have the right to regulate solar and that “those who do not choose to install solar” are not required to “subsidize” those who do.

Justice Barbara Pariente wrote in her opinion that the measure is “masquerading as a pro-solar initiative … actually seeks to constitutionalize the status quo. “

Floridians who participate in the Aug. 30 primary election will get the opportunity to vote on a different solar power amendment, this one listed as Amendment Four. That measure, co-sponsored by St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, Boynton Beach House Democrat Lori Berman and Fort Myers Republican Republican Ray Rodrigues, would essentially be a tax break: It would exempt solar power equipment on homes from being counted toward a house’s value for property tax purposes. It also would exempt from taxation solar energy devices on commercial and industrial properties.

Amendment 4 is supported by 68 percent of the public, opposed by by only 7 percent, with 25 percent unsure.

The statewide Florida poll by Saint Leo University’s Polling Institute contacted 500 residents using an online survey instrument between June 10 and June 15. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.57 percentage points on responses from likely voters, and 4.5 percentage points on responses from the broader survey base.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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