With solar bill veto, Gov. DeSantis slips into something more liberal

solar tax breaks
I think he’s occasionally an ideological cross-dresser.

The Governor was trying to make a point about cartoons the other day when his memory got fogged by false nostalgia. That’s likely to happen when your sparring partner is a gigantic mouse.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, while stumping for a fellow Republican in Nevada, claimed the evil animation cabal from Disney was slipping hidden messages into their cartoons. Their nefarious goal: “inject sexuality” into the minds of children. (As a parent, I can tell you that the main message Disney is injecting into kids’ minds is “Tell your parents to buy our stuff!”).

Then the Yale and Harvard Law grad added, “When we were young, you could watch cartoons without having to worry.”

That sounded wrong to me. Just out of curiosity, I checked the governor’s birth year — 1978 — and then looked up what cartoons were part of the Saturday morning TV lineup in 1984, when he was 6 years old.

The shows that he claimed parents could let their kids watch “without having to worry” included:

“The Smurfs,” in which seven males co-habit with one female;

“The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries” in which four swinging guys and gals live together in a groovy van with a big dog; and

Dungeons and Dragons,” in which six kids get sucked into a realm where they’re given special “abilities” by a squat bald guy who calls himself the Dungeonmaster.

Nope, no sexual messages there!

And let’s not forget that there was an hour-long show starring that Oscar-winning rabbit, Bugs Bunny, who frequently donned women’s clothing to befuddle Elmer Fudd and his other pursuers.

“Ain’t I a stinkah?” he’d proclaim.

As I think about it, though, that wascally wabbit’s proclivity for wacy wadies-wear just miiiight have influenced young Ron as he was growing up in Dunedin.

I don’t mean that in the privacy of the Governor’s Mansion he sometimes dons a J. Edgar Hoover-brand feather boa and six-inch pumps. (I hereby apologize for planting that image in your head.)

What I mean is that I think he’s occasionally an ideological cross-dresser. He talks like he’s a hard-nosed, hard-right GOP guy 24/7, but mentally he’s sometimes dressing up as a man-bunned Bernie Bro.

Mostly that involves the trademark liberal move of throwing lots of taxpayer money at problems instead of fixing the underlying causes, but sometimes it goes further than that. Just look at what happened last week with the anti-solar bill.

Green thank-you notes

Currently (pun intended), Florida folks who install solar panels on their roofs can sell any excess electrical power they produce back to the grid at the retail rate. This practice is called “net metering” — which is not, as I first thought, a reference to what an umpire does during a tennis match.

As you might guess, net metering offers a major financial incentive for power company customers to switch to solar. Selling the power back to the grid helps the users defray their installation costs.

HB 741 aimed to end that practice, thus destroying the incentive. Its intent was to kneecap the solar industry just as solar usage is finally on the upswing.

The anti-solar bill was definitely the least popular bill the Legislature passed this year. It’s probably in the Top 10 list of all-time unpopular Florida legislation, ranking right behind the 2018 “beach access” bill that then-Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law but then ordered everyone to not enforce.

But HB 741 sure was a bonanza for the state’s newspapers as they raced to trace its dubious origin and rotten implications. The Miami Herald revealed that the first version of the bill was written by a big utility company, not legislators.

The Herald story also pointed out that the company followed up the filing of the bill by dumping a $10,000 campaign contribution into the political committee of the Senate sponsor, Jennifer Bradley, R-Show Me The Money.

That is about the nicest batch of thank-you notes ever, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel revealed that the same utility had a plan for how “money could be filtered through a network of companies and nonprofits that would then make campaign contributions to politicians in Florida and around the country.”

The company behind all these dark doings is Florida Power & Light (emphasis on the “power” part, not the light). FPL is the biggest utility in the state. It’s a big fan of solar energy — as long as it controls it and makes great gobs of moolah from it.

FPL got so bent out of shape about the negative coverage of its attempt to cripple the non-FPL solar industry that it attacked the Herald on its own website. That shows you how determined company officials were to shove this unpalatable concoction down the throats of Florida utility customers.

The bill would have required that solar customers pay all fixed costs of having access to transmission lines and backup energy generation as determined by the Public Service Commission, which generally is not at all concerned with the sufferings of the public.

FPL claimed this change was necessary so that its regular customers weren’t subsidizing the costs of the people who’d switched to solar. Then all the FPL corporate execs twirled their mustaches and chuckled, “Heh heh heh.”

Despite the public’s widespread disdain for this bill, the House passed HB 741 by a vote of 83-31, and the Senate by 24-15. The votes were nearly along party lines. After that, everyone — I mean everyone — expected DeSantis to go along with it. It was the Republican thing to do.

But that was before, mimicking Bugs, he chose to slip into something a little more lib — er, uh, I mean comfortable.

Boom-chick-a-boom!

During the legislative session, the governor appeared totally focused on flashy distractions like his expensive and unnecessary “Election Fraud Police” (here’s hoping they’re headquartered in The Villages).

As a result, he paid little attention to important issues such as affordable housing, condo safety, or property insurance rates. FPL’s anti-solar shenanigans didn’t seem to be on his radar at all.

He’s never appeared at all interested in the Sunshine State’s solar industry, even though it’s worth $18 billion to our economy and provides 40,000 jobs. I mean, who cares about encouraging clean-energy jobs when there’s “corporate wokeness” to stamp out?

DeSantis’ mentor, DonaldBeautiful CoalTrump, has sneered at solar power. But at least he’s mentioned it, which is more than DeSantis has done.

Solar power would help with climate change, which is a major threat to Florida. But that’s far from a DeSantis priority. He’s fine with throwing state money at building seawalls and other man-made “resilience” projects to fend off the impacts of climate change. But he never says those two words.

In fact, he’s made it clear he wants nothing to do with what he called “left-wing stuff” that would lessen the state’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Yet last week, to everyone’s astonishment, DeSantis mentally donned a tie-dyed shirt, a fuzzy wig, and a pair of Birkenstocks and vetoed HB 741, just like some kind of radical hippie. He was probably grooving on some Grateful Dead while wielding his veto pen.

DeSantis’ transformation into the savior of the Florida solar industry was as startling as that time Daffy Duck popped out from behind a curtain done up like Carmen Miranda with fruit on his head, dancing and singing, “Boom chick-a-boom!”

When the veto news broke, I bet all the FPL executives sat around muttering, “Ain’t he a stinkah?” Meanwhile, all the elated pro-solar advocates were jumping around like kids in a birthday party bounce house.

“We did not anticipate that Gov. DeSantis would veto it, because Florida Power & Light carries so much weight,” admitted Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

16,000 to 13

In his veto message, DeSantis mentioned neither climate change nor the impact of gutting the solar industry.

Instead, he cited the toll that inflation has taken on Florida families. Approving this bill would add to that financial burden, he wrote, thus camouflaging his liberal move with a not-quite-convincing conservative spin.

FPL says it will bring the bill back next year. What if the Legislature passes it in 2023 and inflation’s not so bad? If DeSantis is still governor, would he veto it again or sign it into law?

“The veto message is clear,” the Governor’s Press Secretary, Christina Pushaw, told me. “If the Legislature pursues similar legislation in the future that does not expose consumers to potential cost increases, it’s certainly something we’d be open to discussing.”

I talked to some pro-solar folks about what they thought might be the real reason behind the veto. One pointed out that in the Panhandle, FPL is currently Public Enemy No. 1 because it took over a smaller utility, promised to lower rates, then jacked them up.

Someone else suggested that FPL’s arrogance may have rubbed our thin-skinned chief executive the wrong way. After all, this is a politician who never makes a public appearance in a place where he might hear someone shout, “Boo!”

But what intrigued me was one detail in the Herald’s story on the veto. The paper noted that prior to announcing his decision, “DeSantis received 16,809 emails, letters, and phone calls opposing the net metering bill. The number in support: 13.”

That’s an incredible margin. It couldn’t be any more lopsided if you asked people to vote on whether they wanted to coat every beach in the state with gooey black oil.

Here’s why that’s important. The governor is running for reelection this fall. He wants to win big so it becomes a springboard to the presidency in 2024.

Under those circumstances, it makes sense for him to veto something that’s so unpopular — so long as no one notices him playing dress-up while doing it.

That’s when it occurred to me: What if we bombarded the governor’s office with another 16,000 or so letters and emails in hopes of pushing him to put on his “left-wing stuff” more often? He just might listen, as long as we do it before November.

Dear Captain Freedom

I would encourage everybody in Florida to give this a whirl. What have you got to lose?

The Governor’s email address is [email protected]. If you prefer snail mail, send your letters to him at Office of Governor Ron DeSantis, State of Florida, The Capitol, 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Here are some pointers if you write to him: 1) Address him in respectful terms, avoiding nicknames such as “Herr Griften-fuhrer” and “The Pillsbury Darth-boy.” 2) Keep it short to cater to his Fox News-segment-sized attention span. 3) Couch your complaint in conservative buzzwords if possible. For example:

“Dear Supreme Excellency: Please fire all the members of your Florida Communities Trust. They voted unanimously to allow a toll road to split a preserve called Split Oak Forest, proving they don’t understand plain English words like ‘preserve.’

“Dear El Macho Supremo: I live in a rural area that’s slated to be paved over by the Northern Turnpike Extension. I beg you to stop it. We are terrified that this unwanted highway will inject critical race theory into our quiet community.”

“Dear Captain Freedom: Thank you for all you do for the Free State of Florida. I’d like to be free from the risk of inundated roads and houses. Please fight against the smoke-belching power plants, cars, and trucks. My Moms for Freedom group agrees that we need to keep our children safe — from giant storm surges.”

That should get you started. Remember, the more of you who write in, the better. Tell your friends and neighbors. Have a block party!

One word of caution, though. When you drop the governor a line, make sure you don’t mention anything about cartoons. And whatever you do, do NOT let on that you know about his not-so-secret habit. I hear that reeeeeeally Bugs him.

____

Craig Pittman reporting via Florida Phoenix.

Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: [email protected] Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

Florida Phoenix

Florida Phoenix is a news and opinion outlet focused on government and political news coverage within the state of Florida.



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