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State economists say “Smart Solar” amendment unlikely to have fiscal impact

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A panel of state economists and analysts estimated Monday one of two dueling ballot initiatives dealing with solar energy voters may consider on the November 2016 elections will not have any impact on state spending should it pass.

The Financial Impact Estimating Conference, a slate of economists for the Legislature and executive branch, held a workshop in Tallahassee to hear from principals representing the group supporting the amendment – a group calling itself Consumers for Smart Solar – and to make changes to a draft impact statement regarding its likely effects.

A representative of the group said the amendment is “protective” in nature, simply allowing policymakers to continue acting as they currently do, rather than requiring legislators to do anything novel. Since all relevant governmental bodies in question – the Legislature, the Public Service Commission which regulates utilities and local governments – simply retain their authority under the amendment, no new funds are necessary to enforce it.

“The Legislature and other levels of government would have the ability to pass laws to protect people who choose solar and people who choose not to do solar,” under the amendment but would not have to take any new action linked to the amendment, said a representative.

The amendment creates a right to lease for consumers to lease or buy solar equipment for their own use and provides the state can regulate the industry.

Debate during the conference revolved around whether language in the amendment saying the state shall “ensure” consumer protections would have a fiscal impact, but economists ultimately agreed with the proponents who said the fiscal status quo is unchanged under the amendment.

Coordinator of the state’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research Amy Baker said the word “ensure” was “unusual” for such an amendment and “not neutral” with regard to which solar policies lawmakers should pursue, but that it would not by itself cause the state to spend additional funds.

The conference made minor changes to a summary impact statement related to the bill, which it will send to the Smart Solar group and the Florida Association of Counties for approval before finalizing it at the conference’s next meeting.

The FIEC will next convene on Monday, November 30.

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

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