Solar power advocates go to Florida Supreme Court to half the vote count of Amendment One - Florida Politics

Solar power advocates go to Florida Supreme Court to half the vote count of Amendment One

With less than a week to go before Floridians finish voting, critics of Florida’s Amendment 1 filed legal actions on Wednesday against the measure, calling on the Florida Supreme Court to reject the results of the vote because they contend the measure was created to intentionally deceive Florida voters.

Citing new information unearthed from a leaked audio recording that surfaced last week, the lawsuits were filed by the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association and Floridians for Solar Choice, the advocacy group whose own pro-solar amendment failed to qualify for enough signatures on the 2016 ballot.

“Consumers for Smart Solar, Inc., the amendment’s proponents, affirmatively withheld relevant and material information as to the objective and intended purpose of the amendment, and thereby misled this Court (and is now misleading the public) as to the adequacy of the ballot title and summary presented to the voters,” the lawsuit says, citing the Miami Herald report from last week which quoted comments made by Sal Nuzzo with the James Madison Institute. In those recorded remarks, Nuzzo called Amendment 1 an “act of political jiu jitsu” designed to deceive voters into supporting restrictions on solar by proclaiming it a pro-solar initiative.

Consumers for Smart Solar, the group sponsoring Amendment 1, said last month that they didn’t know Nuzzo and that he didn’t know what he was taking about.

Proponents of the measure say Amendment 1 will constitutionally guarantee individuals and businesses the right to buy or lease solar equipment to produce their own energy. It also gives solar customers the ability to sell any excess electricity that they generate back into the electric grid. And that it will protect Florida consumers from scams, overcharging, and unfair subsidies.

The Florida Supreme Court narrowly approved putting the measure on the ballot earlier this year, 4-3. Writing in dissent, Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente said that the measure was “masquerading as a pro-solar energy initiative” that “actually seeks to constitutionalize the status quo.”

Referring to that comment, Ben Koehne, the legal counsel for Floridians for Solar Choice, said on a conference call Wednesday “we anticipate that the Supreme Court will reevaluate its advisory position and determine that the amendment is unconstitutional and invalid because it is deceptive and misleads the public, thereby preventing intelligent vote casting.”

A second legal action targets the Florida secretary of state to embargo all votes cast on Amendment One until the Supreme Court is able to make a determination that the amendment should not have been placed on the ballot and is not “a legal vehicle,” said Koehne. Millions of people have already voted on Amendment 1 in the past three weeks.

“The more we learn about the heavy-handed, monopolistic behavior of Florida largest electric utilities, the more concerned we become. With today’s legal actions, we are exposing how the utilities and their proxy front groups intentionally used fraud before the Florida Supreme Court in advancing the anti-solar Amendment 1 ballot measure before Florida voters,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith, board member of Floridians for Solar Choice. “We are increasingly confident that Florida voters will vote this down, but we are concerned that thousands of voters have already been fooled by Amendment 1’s true intent. Many of our members and supporters have asked that we take these actions as ‘insurance’ given the extraordinary amount of money and deceptive activities the utilities are throwing at this in the final days.”

“This is just political grandstanding at its best to deter Florida voters from voting in favor of Amendment 1, which simply safeguards consumer rights, consumer protection, and consumer fairness as we grow solar in Florida,” said Sarah Bascom, a spokesperson for Consumers for Smart Solar.

 

 

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was 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 and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.
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