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Florida utilities

2020

Utility ballot measure approaches signature threshold

The petition has 619,385 of the necessary 766,200 signatures.

A state constitutional amendment proponents claim would lighten electricity bills is nearing a key threshold to reach voters in 2020.

By Friday, the petition had received 619,385 of the 766,200 signatures needed by Feb. 1 to appear on the November ballot.

Political committee Citizens for Energy Choices says the legislation would create a competitive market for electric utilities and save Floridians $5 billion each year. The amendment would guarantee customers a choice in electricity providers.

The amendment also awaits a ruling on proposed ballot wording by the Florida Supreme Court, which heard testimony in August. If the proposal reaches the November ballot, it would require approval from 60% of voters to enter the constitution.

But as the amendment gains more support, it’s also picked up detractors in the state government, including Attorney General Ashley Moody, House Speaker José Oliva and Senate President Bill Galvano.

“While phrased both in its title and in its summary as a purportedly pro-consumer choice measure, the proposed amendment does the opposite,” Moody wrote in a letter to Florida Supreme Court justices early this year.

Outside of government, Floridians for Affordable Reliable Energy and the Florida AFL-CIO have announced their opposition.

“The amendment would dismantle the current reliable and affordable utility industry and require electric utility companies to divest their generation facilities rendering thousands of union workers jobless,” according to Florida AFL-CIO’s resolution.

But supporters, including Powervine Energy CEO Bill Kinneary, say oversight will protect consumers. The amendment calls on the Legislature to facilitate the market’s deregulation.

In Texas, market deregulation lets consumers choose providers starting in 2002. The Georgia Territorial Electric Service Act established retail competition in the Peach State in 1973.

“A look at Texas electricity and Georgia gas are two good examples of how well the free market for energy works,” he said. “In both of these cases, the utilities completely gave up the energy purchase and billing functions and transferred these to the retail energy marketers.”

But Illinois and Massachusetts’ attorneys general have respectively blamed energy companies for defrauding consumers or burdening them with extra costs after the states passed similar measures. And after California passed its own version in 1996, the state’s biggest electricity provider filed for bankruptcy in 2001.

Written By

Renzo Downey covers the Florida Legislature for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

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