Poll shows less than 50 percent support for solar amendment

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A new poll says only a minority of voters supports a proposed constitutional amendment on solar-generated electricity.

The poll results came in a news release about 17 hours before lawyers are scheduled to argue for and against that amendment before the state Supreme Court.

Of likely Florida voters, 41 percent support the amendment, according to the poll released Monday by the Florida Chamber Political Institute, affiliated with the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

“Florida voters clearly support solar, but with 30 proposed constitutional amendments attempting to make their way onto the ballot and into Florida’s Constitution, voters will be looking closely at those that might increase their utility costs,” said Marian Johnson, senior vice president of political strategy for the Florida Chamber.

The poll refers to the initiative by Floridians for Solar Choice, backed by a progressive-conservative coalition that includes the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, among others.

There are two competing solar power amendments vying for the 2016 ballot: The other is sponsored by Consumers for Smart Solar, a utility-backed group.

An attorney for Florida Power & Light Co., Duke Energy Florida, Gulf Power Co. and Tampa Electric Co. will argue against Floridians for Solar Choice’s amendment, court dockets show.

And not just any appellate lawyer, but Tallahassee lawyer Barry Richard, whose claim to fame was representing then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush during the 2000 presidential-election challenge in Florida.

Richard has had a host of white-shoe clients across the country and represents the Seminole Tribe of Florida in its efforts to renegotiate a deal with the state in which it can keep offering blackjack.

The court will hear arguments to determine whether the amendment’s wording and ballot summary pass legal muster to be placed on the ballot.

The Florida Chamber itself filed a “friend of the court” brief opposing the amendment, the news release said.

“The solar initiative violates the single-subject requirement, the title and summary of the amendment are deceptive and misleading to Florida voters,” the release said.

The Chamber’s attorney is Raoul Cantero, a former Florida Supreme Court justice who returned to private practice. He has represented Wells Fargo Bank, Philip Morris USA, and Florida Power & Light, and also represents the Florida Senate in the ongoing legal challenging to Florida’s congressional redistricting.

The poll was conducted on Aug. 8 to 14 by calling landlines and mobile phones of 611 voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent, according to the news release.  

“The samples for the polls conducted by the Florida Chamber Political Institute are consistently drawn from likely voters, meaning those voters who have the propensity and past performance of voting in elections, rather than simply including registered voters,” the release said. “Voters are again screened for likelihood of voting this November.”

Jim Rosica

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 [email protected].


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