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Chamber contends ‘Energy Choice’ amendment backers admit it violates rules

Proposal calls for energy competition but opponents say it would drive up costs

Contending that sponsors of the proposed constitutional amendment aimed at creating more choice in the eletricity market have conceded several points of opposition, the Florida Chamber of Commerce filed a new brief Friday asking the Florida Supreme Court to reject the amendment’s language.

In a brief that was joined by the Florida Economic Development Council, the Chamber charged that the proposed amendment violates the state’s single-subject rule, engages in logrolling, and substantially alters the functions of multiple branches of government. The chamber’s brief also picks apart the so called “Texas Model” that the amendments backers have offered.

And the brief contends that the sponsors have acknowledged the key points of opposition.

The “Right to Competitive Energy Market for Customers of Investor-Owned Utilities” is being pushed toward a 2020 statewide ballot vote by a group called Citizens for Energy Choice. The amendment proposes opening up competition at the retail level, that is to say for individual energy customers, to be able to pick their power company.

The proposal has drawn widespread opposition.

“Voters are smart, and they deserve to know that this is a price-hiking electricity amendment that will drastically drive up costs on Florida’s families, our local businesses, and virtually all consumers,” Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, stated in a news release.

In its latest response, the Chamber and the Florida EDC contend that Citizens for Energy Choice is admitting that the proposal violates the single-subject rule, and that the group essentially conceded the chamber’s earlier argument that the proposal substantially alters the functions of multiple branches of government.

“The only ‘single unifying purpose’ of the Ballot Initiative that the proponents can identify is ‘competition’,” the Chamber’s brief contends.

“However, as the Chamber and FEDC demonstrated, a subject such as ‘competition’ necessarily violates the single subject rule because it is so broad and general that it could encompass almost anything,” the brief argues.

In late winter, the Citizens for Energy Choice had gathered enough petition signatures to have the Florida Supreme Court review the ballot language. To date it has gathered 324,372 total signatures toward the goal of having at least 766,200 valid signatures to actually get it on the ballot. Citizens for Energy Choice has raised and spent more than $2.6 million so far, with almost all the money coming from the Coalition for Energy Choice in Gainesville, plus $141,000 in staff support from Infinite Energy of Charlotte, N.C., which has a few small, mostly natural gas utilities in Florida.

Opponents include Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, the Florida Public Service Commission, Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, House Speaker José Oliva, various business groups, most of Florida’s electric utilities and municipal cooperatives, and various other groups including the Urban League, Audubon of Florida, and the League of Cities.

In previous statements opposing this proposal, the Florida Chamber had outlined that studies conducted by Charles River Associates show the proposed changes to Florida’s electricity market would have the very damaging financial impact on state and local governments of more than $1.2 billion per year in increased costs and reduced revenues. That means less funding for vital local services, including fire departments and first responders, and higher taxes for consumers and small businesses.

The Florida Chamber has a long history of opposing constitutional amendments that can be achieved through the legislative process. The energy regulation amendment can be achieved through the legislative process, and therefore should not be permanently enshrined into Florida’s foundational document.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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