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Jeff Brandes’ renewable bills pass first stop, group opposes solar amendment

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A bill that would place a renewable energy tax exemption amendment on the ballot in 2016 passed their its committee stop on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity-Florida held a press conference to its opposition to a different proposed amendment dealing with solar energy.

SB 400, from St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, would extend a residential property tax exemption for renewable energy devices, as already is provided in the state Constitution, to commercial property.

Similar bills last year died in Senate committees because of opposition in the House. Brandes said he thinks the bills have a better chance of passing this year.

“I think the time is right,” he said. “I think everybody recognizes solar energy has to be part of Florida’s energy portfolio. I think the Legislature is beginning to realize that and the people of Florida obviously realize that.”

SB 400 passed its first of four committee stops by a unanimous vote. SB 402, an implementing bill filed by Brandes, also passed its first stop on Tuesday. The House companion bills have not been heard in committees.

Meanwhile, the conservative Americans For Prosperity-Florida group announced it opposition to a different proposed solar amendment and other legislation filed by Brandes.

SB 1118 allows a property owner to sell renewable energy to a commercial or industrial tenant.

Floridians for Solar Choice is collecting signatures to put a similar initiative on the ballot in 2016 to prevent governments or utilities from placing barriers to supplying solar electricity. The group has raised concerns about the Brandes bill.

“The utilities have concerns about that bill — significant concerns,” Brandes said. “Some of the solar groups have concerns. We’re just trying to work through those issues.”

Americans for Prosperity-Florida on Tuesday held a news conference with the James Madison Institute to announce opposition to the amendment.

“Special interests want to use the state constitution to encourage and promote solar energy,” said Chris Hudson, AFP-Florida state director. “Using the constitution to promote any type of energy over another is grossly inappropriate regardless of what resource it references.”

Tory Perfetti, Florida director of Conservatives for Energy Freedom, responded, “It is an absolute falsehood and complete and total misrepresentation that has absolutely no legitimacy whatsoever that this amendment favors one energy source over another or includes subsidies or mandates.”

Bruce Ritchie (@bruceritchie) covers environment, energy and growth management in Tallahassee. 

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