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Solar amendment slammed as creating new tax

The ad war between the two competing solar amendments flared up Tuesday with the release of a new commercial slamming one of the initiatives for creating a “shady solar tax.”

Two groups are competing for votes for a proposed constitutional amendment: The utility-backed Consumers for Smart Solar and Floridians for Solar Choice, aligned with a coalition of progressive and conservative groups.

Consumers for Smart Solar’s ad, released on YouTube on Tuesday, calls into question a new monthly fee the competing amendment would create, using sound bites from their opponent’s lawyer’s oral argument before the state Supreme Court last month.

Amendments have to pass Supreme Court review before they can be on a ballot. They then need the approval of 60 percent of voters to be added to the state constitution.

Floridians for Solar Choice attorney Bob Nabors had told the justices of a “standby charge” that would be “uniformly applied.”

The amendment aims to allow homeowners and businesses to install solar arrays on their roofs or other property to generate their own power, and sell to others what they don’t use, so long as the buyer is on a “directly adjacent” site.

Barry Richard, the attorney representing several utilities doing business in Florida, argued that the amendment would create an unfair playing field, essentially allowing pop-up mini-utilities to compete without the same rules governing his clients.

The ad, titled “Listen Closely,” says that will mean a new fee that all energy consumers will have to pay “whether you use solar or not.” The ad’s graphics flash “crony capitalism” and “corporate welfare.”

“Whether you call it a ‘standby charge’ or a ‘subsidy,’ it is still a fee or a tax that all Floridians will be on the hook for,” said Sarah Bascom, Consumers for Smart Solar’s spokeswoman.

Bascom said the ad is “running in the Tallahassee media market on TV and radio.”

The ad can be seen, but not commented on, at YouTube. Comments were disabled for the video.

 

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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