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Solar amendment group says it has enough signatures for high court review

Backers of a solar energy ballot initiative said Tuesday they’ve collected enough petition signatures to have the measure reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court.

Floridians for Solar Choice says it wants to encourage solar energy production with a constitutional amendment that would prohibit governments or utilities from placing barriers on the sale or distribution of the power.

The political committee needs more than 683,000 signatures to put the measure on the ballot by Feb. 1, 2016. The committee has collected 72,000 towards the necessary 10 percent needed for a required Supreme Court review of the measure.

“After a short and unnecessary delay, we are thrilled to reach this important milestone,” said Tory Perfetti, chairman of Floridians for Solar Choice. “It shows broad support among Florida’ families and businesses for removing barriers to commerce in solar power.”

The Division of Elections website on Tuesday showed that 72,025 signatures had been collected but it said the verified totals are unofficial until the initiative is certified and placed on the ballot.

The amendment likely will face opposition from utilities who say their customers shouldn’t be responsible for maintaining an electric grid for unregulated third-party providers of electricity. So far, Florida Power & Light Co. and Duke Energy Florida spokesmen said those companies haven’t taken a position on the proposed amendment.

Americans for Prosperity-Florida and the James Madison Institute held a news conference this month to announce their opposition to the amendment.

An AFP-Florida spokesman said the state constitution should not be used to encourage or promote solar energy. In response, Perfetti described as an “absolute falsehood” the claim that the proposed amendment favors one form of energy over another or provides subsidies for solar energy.

Bruce Ritchie (@bruceritchie) covers environment, energy and growth management in Tallahassee. 

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