Jeff Brandes Archives - Page 4 of 33 - Florida Politics

Jack Latvala says his GOP colleagues have their ‘heads in the sand when it comes to transportation’

Incoming Florida Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jack Latvala said Friday a lack of mass transit in the Tampa Bay area has become a bigger problem than ever, and he blasted his fellow Republicans in Tallahassee for failing to lead on the issue.

“We’ve got a lot of folks in my party that just bury their head in the sand when it comes to transportation,” the always outspoken Clearwater Republican said, addressing dozens of people who gathered at 8 a.m. to hear him speak at the weekly “Cafe con Tampa” breakfast in Tampa’s Hyde Park.

Latvala said unless something changes soon, the lack of a capable transit system in the region will ultimately force the Tampa Bay Rays to leave the market.

“It’s not going to be a question of whether the Tampa Bay Rays are in St. Petersburg or in Tampa, it’ll be a question of whether they’re in Hartford (Connecticut), or Montreal. We WILL lose our baseball team,” he said with obvious disdain. “What a blow to the image of our area. All because of people who keep their head in the sand.”

Latvala said the lack of transit options was exposed nationally when the Republican National Convention was held in Tampa exactly four years ago. “Trust me, we will NEVER have another one because of the transportation embarrassments of the delegates getting back at to their hotel at three o’clock in the morning because of our lack of a transit and transportation system in the Tampa Bay area,” which happened on one notorious night of the 2012 RNC.

As has been widely reported, two transit referendums have gone down to defeat in the Tampa Bay area over the past six years. Resistance amongst the current Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners and elements on the left and right in Tampa ended any plans to put another type of sales tax on the ballot this fall. Several Democrats running for state office on the campaign trail this summer have talked about pushing for the Legislature allow large cities like Tampa and St. Petersburg to have the ability to place their own referendums on the ballot.

“I never had a problem allowing people to vote on whether they wanted to tax themselves,” Latvala said when asked about that proposal. “If people are tired of sitting still on the interstate and they want to do something, then why as government leaders should we tell them they don’t have the option of voting for that? Because we’ve got our head in the sand.”

He later added he didn’t think the measure had any chance of passing in the Legislature, though he did praise Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman for continuing to push that and other transit measures forward.

Four years ago, Latvala said it was time to examine consolidating HART and PSTA, the transit agencies in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, respectively. Two separate studies were taken on looking at a merger. The first showed a savings of $2.4 million, but a second KPMG study in 2014 showed those savings to be more modest at $330,000.

When anti-tax activist Tom Rask mentioned to Latvala that HART was opposed to the measure, Latvala simmered. “Of course both agencies are opposed to it, because people are going to lose their jobs!” He said both agencies had CEOs who made six-figure salaries, had lobbyists who came close to costing nearly $100,000, as well as various administrative staffs that could be reduced. “I cannot imagine you would not support something to reduce bureaucracy!,” he barked at Rask.

Rebecca Smith, a Republican running on Tuesday in the House District 60 race, challenged Latvala about his emphasis on mass transit, instead waxing rhapsodically on a future of autonomous vehicles. Latvala was unmoved, saying, it sounded like she was from the “Jeff Brandes school of mass transit” (the St. Petersburg Republican is an enthusiastic champion of such technology).

“You’re still talking about a vehicle on the road,” he countered. “The only difference is that they don’t have a driver.”

Latvala said he’s taken it relatively easy regarding contemplating state issues this summer, but now will begin digging in as he becomes Senate Appropriations Chair after the November elections. He said transit and the Rays’ fate will two of his biggest priorities moving forward.

Advocates extoll the virtues of Amendment 4 in roundtable discussion at USFSP campus

Supporters of expanding the use of solar power in Florida held a roundtable discussion on the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg campus on Tuesday to discuss how the passage of Amendment 4 next week could crack open resistance to alternative energy sources in the Sunshine State.

Amendment 4 exempts solar devices and equipment from being subject to the personal tangible property tax. A business that currently has solar panels is currently being taxed on the panels or devices in addition to their building. The new amendment — if passed — would exempt businesses with solar panels from paying higher taxes.

“The cost of solar has come down so exponentially, 60 percent to 80 percent in the last decade, and the efficiency is better, and so we’re really in a different conversation and we have the opportunity to do something,” said Susan Glickman, Florida director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the organization that backed a rival amendment that failed to get on the November ballot.

The other solar measure that did get on the ballot this year is Amendment 1, which will appear on the November ballot. That initiative is not supported by the environmental community, and Amendment 4 advocates made sure not to muddy the waters by talking about that proposal today.

Unlike many proposed constitutional amendments Floridians vote on in November, Amendment 4 made it on the August ballot with a vote by the Legislature, not a citizen-initiated petition drive. The proposed constitutional amendment is being sponsored by St. Petersburg Republicans Jeff Brandes in the Senate; and Fort Myers Republican Ray Rodrigues and Boynton Beach Democrat Lori Berman in the House.

Tory Perfetti, with Floridians 4 Lower Energy Costs, praised the fact that Amendment 4 has support from people of all different types of ideological stripes. “Some people are coming at Amendment 4 as one more shot at helping forward climate change, and then you have people on my side who … look at climate change data more skeptically. I think the overriding part of this is that though an open energy policy, (it) can lead to benefits for each individual and group in the state as large and diverse as ours.”

“I think this is a great way to give tax breaks to businesses that want to install solar panels, added Darden Rice, vice chair of the St. Petersburg City Council and chair of the council’s Energy, Natural Resources & Sustainability Committee. “It’s one more feather in our cap to help attract and recruit businesses to this area.”

Rice called out two local companies who have installed solar power in their establishments and the savings they will soon enjoy, starting with Great Bay Distributors in St. Petersburg, which last year erected a new warehouse that has the largest commercial rooftop solar array in all of Florida with 4,590 panels. “It’s reduced their electricity costs by 40 percent. It cost them a little more than $2 million to install it, but their payback is gonna be in a little more than six years.”

Mesh Architecture in Lealman is another local business going solar. The firm installed a 100-kilowatt installation with an integrated roof earlier this year. “It really makes sense not to tax the sunshine,” Rice said. “Let’s not tax the solar devices. Let’s not punish businesses for the increased value that they’re going to attain by putting solar panels … let’s use that as a incentive to help businesses do the right thing and save money.”

The solar industry is growing jobs faster than any other sector of the economy, says Wayne Wallace, the proprietor of Solar Source, a solar company that’s been doing business out of Largo since 1984. He said the passage of Amendment 4 would reduce some of the barriers that currently inhibit the growth and development of the solar industry in Florida.

“If Mr. Joe Business owner wants to lower his costs, save money, help homegrown local jobs, and invest in a solar system for his business, he shouldn’t have to pay taxes for it,” Wallace said, summing up why the decision to support the measure was obvious. “Who doesn’t want to save money? And who doesn’t want to help generate jobs in the local economy, and as a fringe, who doesn’t want cleaner air?”

Although Wallace called a cleaner environment as “just a fringe,” it’s a dominant thought amongst the environmental crowd that has been hungering for the Sunshine State to do more with solar than it has to date. Criticism over the years has been generated at the reluctance of public utilities to embrace alternative energy, but with prices continuing to drop precipitously in the past few years, even the utilities are beginning to come around.

“As the cost of solar energy continues to decrease and the efficiency of panels grows, we’re increasing our investments in solar,” said Alex Glenn, president of Duke Energy-Florida last month after Duke opened the Osceola Solar Facility in Osceola County.

“Climate change is real and we have to do something about it,” insisted James Scott, Student Senate president at USFSP. But he said he’s learned that key influential officials on the campus are more interested in the financing and the economics behind clean energy, rather that on the clean energy front. He said that Amendment 4 was a no-brainer, but it would be harder to get the rest of the population to be thinking of a greener, more alternative energy focused state moving into the future.

Sixty percent of votes are need to pass the amendment into law in Florida.

The Florida Legislature does not start its next session until 2017. The amendment would go into effect on Jan. 1,  2018, and would extend for 20 years until Dec. 31, 2037.


Jeff Brandes: The future of transportation is ‘right around the corner’

The future of transportation is autonomous. It’s electric. It’s shared and on demand.

And it will be here sooner than you think.

“The message today is it’s right around the corner,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

The St. Petersburg Republican laid out his prediction for the future of transportation during the 2016 Building Florida’s Future symposium in Tampa. The event, hosted by Associated Industries of Florida and Port Tampa Bay, was a chance for industry experts and policy makers to talk about issues impacting transportation, infrastructure and economic development.

Brandes has led the effort to make sure Florida’s transportation efforts are ready for self-driving vehicles. He’s been an outspoken supporter of the technology, pushing legislation in 2012 to encourage testing and study of automated vehicles in Florida.

He also backed legislation approved earlier this year as part of an omnibus transportation bill. That legislation, signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in April, paves the way for autonomous vehicles to begin operating on Florida’s roads.

Brandes said he believes self-driving vehicles will be on the roadways soon, in part because of the safety factor. Ninety percent of accidents are caused by human errors, and Brandes said that’s why there is such a push to get these vehicles on the roadways.

“Lives are going to be saved,” he said.

But the future of transportation won’t just be self-driving vehicles, but electric vehicles, ride-sharing, and on-demand services. And while the shift to this technology may seem gradual, one day providers will show up in a community and turn on their services.

“It’s an incredibly exciting time,” he said. “We’re talking about a massive change that is going to occur.”

Florida has been trying to address the new technology, and in recent years has attempted to regulate ride-hailing services, like Uber. Those attempts, however, haven’t been successful in recent years. And as autonomous vehicles start hitting the roadways, questions of who, or what, to license will surely emerge.

Another question lawmakers have to tackle, is how to adjust funding models to account for growth in the electric vehicle industry. More electric vehicles on the roadway could translate to less money from the gas sales tax, which helps fund transportation initiatives across the state.


Mitch Perry Report for 8.18.16 — The Affordable Care Act is getting less affordable

There’s more news about the Affordable Care Act this week, and it ain’t that good.

Aetna announced Tuesday it would be pulling out of Florida and 10 other states next year, giving those on the government plan less options for choice here in the Sunshine State.

There have always been problems with the ACA, and they’re starting to exacerbate.

But the answer isn’t just to repeal it, like most congressional Republicans have invoked like a mantra for the past three years.

However, Democrats have got to raise their game and not just robotically defend it.

This is a test for all of our federal candidates on the ballot this fall — for David Jolly, Charlie Crist, Marco Rubio and, probably, Patrick Murphy — what do you plan to do?

Hillary Clinton is calling for a “public option” for states, which would expand health insurance coverage beyond the current provisions in Obamacare. Clinton also is calling for allowing people 55 years and older to be able to enroll in Medicare. Currently, the typical age for enrollment is 65. She pledged to expand funding by $40 billion for primary care services at federally qualified health care centers.

Will that get congressional approval, especially if Republicans still control the House? I have no idea, but having Washington remain at loggerheads on our health care coverage is simply not acceptable, not with costs going up everywhere (not just with the ACA) and the citizenry only getting older, this is as big a problem we have in this country.

According to today’s New York Times, “The administration is also hunting for consumers who can deliver ‘testimonials’ advertising the benefits of coverage under the Affordable Care Act. “Interested consumers could appear in television, radio, print and/or digital ads and on social media,” the administration said in an appeal sent last week to health care advocates and insurance counselors.

The paper reports that in Tennessee, Cigna last week requested rate increases averaging 46 percent, double the request it made in June, and Humana is seeking an average increase of 44 percent, up from 29 percent in June. The other major carrier in the state, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, said it was standing by its original request for increases averaging 62 percent in 2017.

The Affordable Care Act is becoming less affordable by the day, it seems. Time for an intervention.

In other news…

The Congressional Black Caucus PAC is backing Patrick Murphy in the U.S. Senate race, and Pam Keith doesn’t like it one bit.

Victor Crist wants Jeff Brandes to know he’s not down with proposed rules that could compel Uber and Lyft to leave Hillsborough County.

Speaking of Brandes, the St. Petersburg state senator and co-sponsor of Amendment 4 on this month’s ballot takes exception to criticism of the proposal made by one Al Sharpton.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz is crushing Tim Canova in their CD 23 race in South Florida, according to a new poll published on Wednesday.

And more endorsements: Frank Peterman is supporting Wengay Newton for the job he once held — representing House District 70 in Tallahassee (It was District 55 when he was in office, for what it’s worth).

And the Florida Education Association is backing Ben Diamond in the House District 68 contest.

The Department of Children and Families says New Beginnings of Tampa did no wrong back in 2008, the second government investigation that has cleared the group after a series of damning articles were published by the Tampa Bay Times in late 2014.

Hillsborough County makes a move to preempt any civil unrest if things go sour between law enforcement and the community.



Jeff Brandes disagrees with Al Sharpton’s critique of Amendment Four

Unlike that other solar power constitutional amendment that Floridians will decide on in the fall, seemingly everyone supports Amendment Four, the only ballot measure on this month’s primary ballot. Virtually everyone that is, except Al Sharpton.

The New York City-based activist and MSNBC host bashed the measure while making an appearance last week in Opa-Locka. Amendment Four would create a tax exemption for businesses who use solar power, the same type of exemption that homeowners have enjoyed when using solar for the past three years.

“The beneficiaries of this are big businesses who, if they paid their tax on this, it would go toward helping schools from local counties and cities that claim they don’t have the budget,” Sharpton said. “It would go to the areas of social services that you claim you don’t have the budget. So you can’t at one end say we would be doing a lot of these things that are needed in the inner-city communities in Miami, in Tampa, in Orlando, but then turn around and say we’re going to give Big Business a break.”

“I think it’s the exact opposite,” responds St. Petersburg state Senator Jeff Brandes, one of the co-sponsors of the measure. “It really helps public schools and it helps all the businesses to diversify their energy, to install solar panels on top of their roofs, or other renewable energy devices, and I think the entire community is going to benefit from that, both in terms of jobs it creates to install and maintain those facilities, that without this amendment, will not exist in Florida for many years to come.”

The bipartisan measure was placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature this past spring, where it must get 60 percent support from the public to pass (Fort Myers Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues and Lantana Democratic Rep. Lori Berman were the co-sponsors in the House).

Sharpton’s criticism was notable in that his voice is one of the very few to speak out against the measure, which is by virtually every major newspaper in the state.

That’s unlike Amendment One, the other solar power constitutional amendment that Floridians will vote on later this year that is shrouded in controversy. Although the measure passed scrutiny with the Florida Supreme Court earlier this year, it was blasted by Justice Barbara Parenti, who wrote in her dissent that the measure was “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.”

There is one Florida-based group that has announced their opposition to Amendment Four. A political action committee called Stop Playing Favorites was created earlier this month in opposition to the measure. Conservative activist Jason Hoyt says his group’s goal is to discourage Florida lawmakers and voters from creating carve-outs while picking winners and losers in the economy.

That group is somewhat of an outlier, however. Senator Brandes calls it “amazing” how so many different groups are actively backing Amendment Four.

“We have faith-based communities. We have the environmental community. We have the business community, all aligned behind this proposal,” he said in Tampa on Tuesday, shortly before appearing at a transportation forum hosted by HART.”It’s one of the first times I’ve seen something as momentous as this move through with this much grassroots support. We’re excited. We think the numbers are there. My constituents want more solar; they want access to solar energy. They want to see businesses using solar in the Sunshine State, and this amendment, Amendment Four, gives that to them.”

Direct mail round-up: Flyer says Augie Ribeiro not a true Democrat, has no Florida law license

Listen to Augie Ribeiro talk, hear his ads or read his campaign literature and two themes stand out: Ribeiro is an attorney who fights for the little guy and he’s the only “true Democrat” in the race for state Senate District 19.

But a flyer that landed in Democratic mailboxes Monday — the first day of early voting in Pinellas — tells voters just to hold on. Ribeiro, it says, is not only not a true Democrat, he wasn’t even a Democrat until 29 months ago. And, worse, he has no Florida law license. And, although it does not use the term “carpetbagger,” the flyer says multimillionaire Ribeiro is a “New York lawyer” who “thinks he can buy an election.”

Augie Ribiero with Hillary Clinton“Like [Gov.] Rick Scott, now he’s spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and wants to be your voice in Tallahassee,” the flyer says.

The mailing is a product of the Ed Narain-connected political action committee “Floridians for Principled Leadership.” Narain, Ribeiro, Darryl Rouson and Betty Reed are facing off for SD 19 in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary. The winner will face Republican John “Mr. Manners” Houman in the Nov. 8 general election.

“If someone’s going to make an allegation that I’m not a true Democrat, that’s a little surprising to me,” Ribeiro said Tuesday.

That’s because, Ribeiro said, he has impeccable Democratic credentials. Not only did he support President Barack Obama, but he’s also been on Hillary Clinton’s Florida finance team since before she became an official candidate.

And, Ribeiro said, state Democrats heavily recruited him to run for the state Senate seat held by Republican Jeff Brandes. He didn’t run because redistricting excluded him from the district.

So, instead, he decided to run for the District 19 seat held by Arthenia Joyner, who is terming out. That, he said, upset some party leaders.

“You can’t tell me I’m not a Democrat,” he said.

Ribeiro concedes he has no license to practice law in Florida although he’s admitted to the bar in Connecticut and New York. He is also admitted to the federal bar.

Augie Ribeiro with ObamaBut, Ribeiro said that, in the lawsuit over the BP oil spill, he represented local cities — St. Petersburg, St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island — and Tampa municipal subdivisions — Raymond James Stadium, the Florida Aquarium, golf courses and others — as well as local nonprofits. He did that because he had local attorneys on the case, which was tried in a federal court in Louisiana. He filed a special appearance in that court, he said.

That’s similar to a lawsuit filed against General Motors, which made use of local attorneys. The federal trial was in New York.

“I never claimed to have a local practice or be soliciting local clients,” Ribeiro said.

Ribeiro conceded his success at suing big companies has made him wealthy. The flyer and his financial declaration indicate he’s worth about $29 million.

And he’s spent about $300,000 on his campaign, according to the flyer.

It’s true, Ribeiro said, that he has been able to finance his campaign because of his own wealth and the generosity of relatives and friends. That was the goal — to avoid taking money from special interests.

“I think it’s hard to be in the state Legislature and bite the hand that feeds you. I won’t be bought,” Ribeiro said. “I don’t want to be beholden to the special interests that have taken control of the Legislature.”

Anti-Ribeiro Flyer Anti-Ribeiro flyer 1

Tidbits from the Pinellas GOP’s ‘Victory Picnic’

Pinellas County Republicans who gathered at a “Victory Picnic” mostly avoided talking about their candidate at the top of the ballot this November and focused instead on the importance of keeping Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate and winning local races.

Donald Trump was not my first, second or third choice,” said state Rep. Chris Latvala about his presidential candidate preferences, “but when you put him and Hillary Clinton next to each other, it’s no contest.”

Latvala was one of more than two dozen GOP candidates who took part in the in Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee event at the Feather Sound Country Club, where the choir was eager to be preached to.

I made an (increasingly rare) appearance on the campaign trail and, quite honestly, was humbled to receive a round of applause after being introduced to the crowd by emcee Leslie Waters, the mayor of Seminole and a former state representative. It was a treat to see the longtime friends and campaign trail fixtures — people like Pam Hinds and Rachelle Warmouth — who make local political events feel more like family reunions.

I stayed for only about an hour, but was able to glean these tidbits:

— PCREC Chairman Nick DiCeglie, his beautiful family in tow, says the event raised more than $17,000 for the local party’s burgeoning coffers.

— U.S. Rep. David Jolly, who faces a primary challenge from retired General Mark Bircher, was on-point with a large campaign staff in attendance, including his effervescent wife, Laura. The race between Jolly and Bircher is shaping up like a first-round game between the U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team and a preliminary opponent: it’s not a question of whether Jolly will win, it’s about the style points.

— Speaking of Jolly, the investigation into who on his campaign is responsible for placing yard signs in right-of-ways points to one suspect: Max Goodman!

— State Sen. Jeff Brandes, who has already won re-election without opposition, spoke about two causes he’s working on this election cycle: Rubio’s re-election and passing Amendment 4, the solar power and renewable energy initiative. With the measure polling near the 60 percent threshold it must exceed to make it into Florida’s constitution, Brandes is optimistic voters will approve it.

— State Rep. Chris Sprowls may be rapidly growing into his role as a statewide leader (he’s slated to be Speaker of the House beginning in 2021-22), but he wasn’t too busy to carry his family’s diaper bag. Good man!

— Rep. Latvala has a new addition to his campaign team: a hard part in his hair that makes him look way too mature for my liking.

— Former state Rep. Ed Hooper looks tanned and rested and ready to run for the state Senate seat Jack Latvala must give up in 2018 due to term limits.

— In the competitive primary for Pinellas County Property Appraiser, Mike Twitty lapped former state Rep. Jim Frishe in the straw poll voting, 68 to 32.

Amendment 4 backers want voters to see the light

Using a favorite joke, state Sen. Jeff Brandes said he had brought together “the Baptists and the bootleggers” in support of his proposed solar-energy constitutional amendment.

Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, led a news conference Thursday at Tallahassee’s Florida Press Center.

“This is something Republicans and Democrats have come together on,” he told reporters. “It’s about our environment; it’s about jobs … businesses, residents and tourists will all benefit.”

Florida for Solar, Inc., the committee behind Amendment 4, is doing a final publicity push for the initiative that’s on the Aug. 30 primary ballot.

The amendment would amount to a tax break: It would exempt solar power equipment on homes from being counted toward a house’s value for property tax purposes.

It also would exempt from taxation solar energy devices on commercial and industrial properties. Those tax breaks would begin in 2018 and last for 20 years.

In a rare coup, it’s brought together environmentalists and the business lobby.

“It’s great for the economy, and the environment is our economy in Florida,” said Aliki Moncrief of Florida Conservation Voters. “Voters really do want this, and we just want to make sure they’re aware. We’re pretty confident that if they have the opportunity to support solar and clean air, they will, in fact, do that.”

According to a recent statewide Florida poll by Saint Leo University’s Polling Institute, Amendment 4 is supported by 68 percent of the public, opposed by 7 percent, with 25 percent unsure.

Nonetheless, an opposition group has formed to oppose the measure, saying the ballot question is a “rejection of free market principles.”

“Voters are tired of big government cronyism where legislators and lobbyists play favorites by manipulating the tax code for their friends,” conservative activist Jason Hoyt said this week.

Richard Turner, general counsel and vice-president of government relations for the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, disagrees. Florida lags behind other states concerning solar power, he said.

“We are, after all, the Sunshine State,” he said. “If you don’t believe this is a good idea, look around the room. This is a very diverse group.”

The amendment’s website is at A link to a Periscope video of the news conference is here.

New survey shows Amendment 4 solar initiative getting 56 percent support

An initiative that would give a property tax break for renewable energy to residents and businesses, is getting strong support heading into the Aug. 30 primary election in Florida.

A St. Pete Polls survey released Wednesday shows Amendment 4 is garnering 56 percent in support to 16 percent against, with 27 percent undecided.

Florida hasn’t had a constitutional amendment referendum in the state primaries since 1984. There is some confusion regarding this issue and Amendment 1, another solar power constitutional amendment that will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Unlike that measure, however, Amendment 4 is supported by both Republicans and Democrats. It comes directly from the Legislature, where St. Petersburg Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes sponsored it in the Senate. Pensacola Republican Ray Rodrigues was the prime sponsor in the House, and South Florida Democratic Rep. Lori Berman was a co-sponsor.

This is the official ballot language of the measure:

“Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to authorize the Legislature, by general law, to exempt from ad valorem taxation the assessed value of solar or renewable energy source devices subject to tangible personal property tax, and to authorize the Legislature, by general law, to prohibit consideration of such devices in assessing the value of real property for ad valorem taxation purposes. This amendment takes effect Jan. 1, 2018, and expires on Dec. 31, 2037.”

The poll also asked voters if they would support an open primary system, where independents could participate in primary elections like the one coming up later this month. The result showed there is strong support for such a system, with 59 percent in support and 28 percent opposed, with another 13 percent undecided.

The poll robocalled 5,358 likely statewide primary voters on Tuesday, Aug. 2. It has a 1.3 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level.

New group emerges to oppose Amendment 4 solar measure on this month’s ballot

A constitutional amendment on this month’s primary ballot, which would give commercial property owners a tax break when they install renewable energy devices, has not faced any opposition to date. Until now.

Conservative activist Jason Hoyt announced the creation of “Stop Playing Favorites Political Action Committee “(Stop Playing Favorites PAC) on Monday, which he brands as an effort meant to discourage Florida lawmakers and voters from creating carve-outs while picking winners and losers in the economy. Their immediate goal is focused on asking Florida voters to reject Amendment 4 on the Aug. 30 Florida primary.

“Voters are tired of big government cronyism where legislators and lobbyists play favorites by manipulating the tax code for their friends,” says Hoyt. “Stop Playing Favorites was created to defeat measures just like Amendment 4, which will shortchange taxpayers while lining the pockets of big solar, big utility corporations and big business.  No matter the industry or issue, when the Legislature makes exemptions, someone has to pay for it.”

Amendment 4 was put on the ballot by state legislators earlier this year. Its primary sponsors are St. Petersburg state Sen. Jeff Brandes, Fort Myers Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues and Lantana Democratic Rep. Lori Berman.

And unlike the other solar power constitutional amendment that Florida will voters will decide on this fall (Amendment 1), there is little controversy about Amendment 4, which is backed by both business and progressive groups, such as the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, The Nature Conservancy and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Amendment 4 advocates say it would reduce the price of home solar panels, thus allowing more Floridians to use them. It would also help out the big utility companies by reducing their tax liability on solar panels and other renewable energy equipment. If approved by voters, the Legislature would need to approve those tax breaks next year, and they would last for at least 20 years.

Stop Playing Favorites members say the ballot proposal is a rejection of free market principles.

“If government investment was the ingredient for success, then Solyndra would be a Fortune 500 company,” says Tampa conservative activist Tom Gaitens, former Florida director of FreedomWorks.

“Whenever the government does what free markets were intended to do in a capitalistic society, there goes the death of freedom and private enterprise,” says Cindy Cooper Youell, a candidate for Seminole County state committeewoman, who supports the effort. “The people then become subservient to the government who has now become master of its slave to ever-increasing taxation. In the end, work is frustrated and that society collapses, as incentive to work has lost its reward.”


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