National black business group comes out against Florida solar ballot initiative

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President of the conservative National Black Chamber of Commerce Harry Alford has issued a letter in which he takes a stand on behalf of his group against an emerging Florida ballot initiative that would ease restrictions against rooftop solar panels for homes and businesses.

Alford teed off against the move, saying that while it appears to expand consumer choice and general access to an alternative source of power, he believes it to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing designed to draw down state dollars for subsidies.

“[A] number of our members are troubled by a ballot initiative being proposed in Florida regarding solar power,” wrote Alford on Wednesday. “This measure threatens to raise the price of electricity and further distort the energy market because it will be impossible to implement without mandates and more taxpayer-funded subsidies. The measure isn’t about consumer choice, but about making profitable an industry that probably would not be successful in usual market conditions.”

Alford criticized the substance of the proposal on its policy merits, but also inveighed against the form that the proposal is taking.

While solar proponents say amending the state constitution is necessary due to entrenched opposition to reform stemming from the utilities’ tight grip on the legislative branch, Alford says making such a change via ballot amendment is a bad idea.

“While there may be ways to create even more opportunities for solar power generation and usage, adding language to the Florida Constitution is a bad idea. It will open the door for more of the same bad behavior similar to that in states like Arizona and Louisiana, where solar companies have engaged in fraud, and carves out a special set of rules for the solar industry. We all lose when government crushes the free market.”

Alford hinted his backers might like to see the amendment thrown out before it gets a chance to come to a vote, invalidated perhaps by the office of Attorney General Pam Bondi on grounds of procedural legality.

“Our hope is that state elected officials, particularly the Attorney General, will give this ballot initiative the close scrutiny it deserves. For the sake of Florida’s small businesses, the families they employ, and our seniors and consumers, it is important that our leaders provide oversight on initiatives like these and defeat them.”

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at