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Energy choice proponents make ballot access case to Supreme Court

The market would open to competition under the amendment.

A proposed constitutional amendment that would open the state’s electricity market to competition moved closer to the ballot on Friday.

The push to create an “open and competitive energy market” is now over 254,000 signatures, though still a fraction of the 766,200 needed by Feb. 1, 2020 for ballot access.

Sponsoring organization Citizens for Energy Choice (CFEC) announced that its attorneys filed the required legal brief with the Supreme Court of Florida. The ballot initiative’s title is “Right to Competitive Energy Market for Customers of Investor-Owned Utilities.”

“We are confident in our legal position,” said CFEC Chair Alex Patton. “Clearly, energy choice meets all the requirements of Florida’s statutes, and the court has an established history of reluctance to interfere with citizens’ self-determination.”

If the amendment passes, it will change Florida’s energy sector, by allowing customers of investor-owned utilities to shop for the best price. Current investor-owned utilities, or IOUs, would be restricted to construction or maintenance of infrastructure.

The amendment would also subvert monopolies, and would lead to legislation that would offer consumer protections against “deceptive and unfair practices” and utility monopolies.

The brief establishes a conflict between citizen prerogatives, and the political power of IOUs.

“The juggernaut of opposition filings by the [Attorney General], the Senate, the House and the [Public Service Commission] suggests the enormous clout of the IOU state-nurtured monopolies, which in 2014 and 2016 alone gave $43 million in contributions to Florida state level candidates, political parties and PACs, including large amounts to opponents AIF and the Chamber,” the argument holds.

Indeed, those parties have been out front opposing this initiative.

Even before the filing of briefs, business groups, the Urban League, the League of Cities and Attorney General Ashley Moody had already come out against the proposed ballot item.

The energy choice proponents’ filing notes that “many of the 40 opposition parties have made the merits and wisdom of the amendment a prominent theme of their arguments,” which runs counter to precedent.

The sponsoring organization, Citizens for Energy Choice, has raised $2.275 million for the effort thus far, with $236,005 brought in with April contributions.

Coalition for Energy Choice is the sole funder of the effort, with Infinite Energy offering staff help.

Infinite Energy is a multi-state operator with a Gainesville branch. The company also operates in Texas, Georgia, New York and New Jersey.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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