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Solar power constitutional amendment closer to getting on Florida ballot, but still needs lots more signatures

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A constitutional amendment that would allow Floridians the opportunity to purchase solar power for their home energy needs is one step closer to getting on the 2016 ballot, as the Financial Impact Estimating Conference (FIEC) has completed its review of the Florida Solar Choice ballot petition and filed its Financial Impact Statement with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. Bondi must now send the FIEC statement to Florida’s Supreme Court for its review. Concurrently the court is taking up a required review of the ballot petition language to ensure that it comports with constitutional requirements.

“We are pleased with the outcome of the FIEC review and that the Floridians for Solar Choice ballot initiative has completed another step in the evaluation process,” said Tory Perfetti, chairman of Floridians for Solar Choice. “We agree with the conclusion reached by this body that the ballot initiative will not increase state and local taxes.”

But there’s still a long way to go before the amendment officially qualifies for ballot status. Floridians for Solar Choice (the umbrella group leading the campaign to get the measure on the ballot) says that the State Division of Elections has confirmed more than 86,000 signatures. While an impressive number for the first quarter of the year, the campaign needs a lot more signatures — over 600,000 more signatures (683,149) by February 1, 2016 — in order to get on the ballot.

“This campaign continues to gather support and signatures and looks forward to having voters decide in 2016 on removing barriers to solar choice in Florida,” says the ever confident Perfetti.

Florida is one of only five states in the nation that doesn’t allow its citizenry the opportunity to purchase solar power from electricity companies. And the Sunshine State is 13th in the nation for installed solar capacity, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. 

Floridians for Solar Choice is made up of an  amalgam of liberal and conservative groups. One of its leaders is Debbie Dooley, a co-founder of the national Tea Party in 2009. Its main opposition has come from the libertarian-leaning Americans for Prosperity, who claim the initiative isn’t about freedom or choice, but also about money.

A letter sent out in March by AFP has said the solar industry “cannot survive without taxpayer-funded subsidies and mandates” and that if the ballot measure passes, Floridians “can expect those subsidies to grow.” Conservative advocates in Florida say AFP has been emailing and calling supporters in the state to try to turn them against the ballot measure.

But Debbie Dooley and others with Floridians for Solar Choice reject that argument, stating the fact that there aren’t any subsidies or mandates listed anywhere in the measure.

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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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