Vote no on Amendment 1: Reject Florida utilities’ shameful solar campaign

Oct 20, 2016 by

Vote no on Amendment 1. Tell your friends and family to vote no. Post it on Facebook. Tweet it. Shout it from the rooftops, where solar panels should be if it weren’t for Amendment 1.

Sorry if I sound like a broken record, but this is important and urgent. Ballots are in the mail. Early voting is starting.

Most Floridians support solar power and believe Florida — the Sunshine State — should be leading the way. Polls show astronomical support for solar.

Amendment 4 on the August ballot allowed businesses the same ad valorem tax advantage as individuals using solar power. It passed with 73 percent of the vote, and it truly was pro-solar.

Florida’s largest investor-owned utilities understand the popularity of solar and worry that it poses a threat to their market share and profitability. Rather than continue to fight their expansion through the legislative process, they decided on a different tactic by embracing the public’s support of solar energy and energy independence. It’s a strategy we in the legislative arena have referred to as “loving it to death.”

The utilities formed a political committee — Consumers for Smart Solar — and put their money into an effort to amend the Florida Constitution to regulate their solar-energy competition under the guise of granting Floridians the right to put solar power on their homes.

The utilities’ amendment language is brilliantly deceptive, as is their massive, multifaceted ad campaign.

This charade should have ended in the Florida Supreme Court, where constitutional amendments are reviewed for the sole purpose of determining whether the ballot language is unambiguous. The court had one job, and it failed the voters.

The court was divided. Four justices — Charles T. Canady, Ricky Polston, Jorge Labarga and R. Fred Lewis — allowed the deceptive amendment to be placed on the ballot. The other three justices — Barbara J. Pariente, Peggy A. Quince and James E.C. Perry — opposed the language.

In a scathing dissent, Pariente warned, “Let the pro-solar-energy consumers beware. Masquerading as a pro-solar-energy initiative, this proposed constitutional amendment, supported by some of Florida’s major investor-owned electric utility companies, actually seeks to constitutionalize the status quo.”

Unfortunately, not many voters know what Pariente said in her dissent or what the true intent of the utility-backed amendment is.

And they’re unlikely to learn because solar proponents don’t have the money or resources to compete with the deep pockets and dirty tricks of the utilities. Their political committee has at least $21.5 million to spend.

Polling showed overwhelming support for both Amendment 4, which passed in August, and Amendment 1, which is on the November ballot. Voters mistakenly thought both are pro-solar.

A coalition of pro-solar activists waited until after Amendment 4 passed to start vocally opposing Amendment 1 to avoid confusing voters further. They don’t have the big money on their side but they do have the facts. At least 10 major newspapers have published editorials strongly recommending a no vote on Amendment 1, with more to come.

The utilities, on the other hand, have sent out an avalanche of beautiful, glossy and grossly misleading mail pieces.

Here are some of their claims:

Amendment 1 is a straightforward plan.

It’s not — by design.

Encourages the use of clean, renewable solar energy.

It does the opposite — it discourages.

Vote Yes on Amendment 1, For the Sun.

More accurately, it blocks the sun.

Florida Needs More Solar, Amendment 1 Does It the Right Way.

Protectionism is not the right way.

Their deceptive campaign is a textbook example of projection. Consider these Jedi mind tricks:

Places your right to solar in the Constitution where politicians and special interests can’t tamper with it.

This would be funny if it weren’t so cynical. They are the special interests and they want to inappropriately insert regulation in the Constitution to make it difficult for the little guys to compete.

Protects consumers, particularly our seniors, from scam artists, long-term contract traps and rip-offs.

If this passes, all consumers will likely pay more for solar and will have limited choice. And who’s scamming our seniors? They’ve enlisted crooner Pat Boone to target our senior voters with a robocall selling this deceptive amendment.

And the most obnoxious claim: “As divided as politics has become in our country, it seems rare when an issue unites us. But that’s exactly what Amendment 1 does.”

Show them you’re not fooled by their massive misinformation campaign. Vote no on Amendment 1, and spread the word.

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