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Jeff Brandes wants to keep renewable energy bill clean

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A Senate panel approved a bill by St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes that would implement solar tax breaks approved by Florida voters in last year.

More than 70 percent of Florida voters backed Amendment 4 in August, which makes it so the increased value of a home due to renewable energy improvements such as solar panels can’t be included when assessing a property’s value for tax purposes.

SB 90, which is supported by environmental groups and solar panel installers, doesn’t include the same safety standards and disclosure requirements found in the House version, HB 1351.

House bill sponsor Rep. Ray Rodrigues worked with solar experts, including Florida Power & Light, SolarCity and local solar installers to develop consumer protection language, much of which mirrors the recommendation of the Solar Energy Installers Association.

The Energy & Policy Institute, a secretive group that does not disclose its funding sources, has claimed that the House bill would put a damper on solar panel sales, however, former Arizona regulator Bob Stump countered that solar sales increased after similar consumer protection legislation passed in his state.

Brandes told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Finance and Tax that he is in talks with the House on an implementing bill for the tax break, but said he hasn’t agreed to the extra regulations in their bill.

The Republican lawmaker said, “all the options are on the table” when asked if he would be willing to let his bill die if he can’t reach an agreement with the House on the so-called consumer protections.

“Clearly we’d prefer a clean bill,” he said.

The committee approved SB 90 with a unanimous vote and it now moves on to the full Senate Appropriations Committee, its last stop before its ready for the chamber floor.

The House’s preferred bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues, is awaiting action from the Commerce Committee.

A House bill filed by Democrat Lori Berman that is identical to Brandes’ solution has yet to be heard in committee.

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