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Constitutional amendment on solar power close to Florida Supreme Court review

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

It’s only the middle of March, but Floridians for Solar Choice, the political action committee pushing to get a solar-energy initiative on the ballot in 2015,  are on the verge of having enough valid petition signatures to get a review by the Florida Supreme Court. The group submitted 66,493 valid petition signatures on Friday, just shy of the 68,314 needed to trigger court review.

If approved, the measure would open up the business of selling electricity from solar energy to the public in Florida.

The level of enthusiasm for the measure doesn’t surprise Tory Perfetti, the Florida director of Conservatives for Energy Freedom, a group that has been leading the way on getting the measure before the voters next year.

“The amount of demand from every side of the aisle, politically, business, and just individual Florida citizens in general for allowing the free market regarding energy policy in florida, has been overwhelming, and so it’s not surprising,” he said on Saturday.

Frustrated by the resistance of the investor-owned utilities that claim that solar doesn’t work in their business model in Florida, a coalition of conservative and progressive groups have rallied behind getting the constitutional amendment on the ballot this year, and so far they’ve had the resources to gather lots of signatures.

But they still have a lot of work to do. The goal is to get to the 688,314 vetted signatures that they’ll ultimately need to get on the ballot, but they still have more than 10 months to get there.

While Floridians for Solar Choice is primarily being funded by the progressive Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, it’s not just liberals who are pushing the measure, which is why it seems destined for success. In addition to Conservatives for Energy Freedom,  other conservative groups like the Tea Party Network, the Christian Coalition, The Libertarian Party of Florida and the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida back it as well.

Big business is also supportive in the form of the Florida Retail Federation.

Floridians have hosted town hall meetings in St. Petersburg and Tallahassee to inform voters about their measure. The next scheduled public town hall is this Tuesday just outside of Orlando, at the Magnolia House in Groveland.

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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