Critics Say Amendment 1 Casts A False Light

Sep 7, 2016

Environmental, political and religious groups say they hope to eclipse a controversial solar power ballot initiative known as Amendment 1.

A broad coalition of environmental, political and religious groups is launching a campaign to oppose Amendment 1, the utility backed initiative guaranteeing the right to solar power.

Amendment 1 opponents are so diverse, they defy political description. They run the gamut from the League of Women Voters and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy to the Young Republicans and Christian Coalition.

And while Amendment 1 has the state’s largest utilities and more than 18 million dollars behind it, opponents have a slogan. League of Women Voters president Pamela Goodman repeated it several times in a conference call.

“Vote ‘no’ on 1, don’t block the sun, is today’s theme.”

A creature of the investor owned utilities, Amendment 1 is formally sponsored by a group called “Consumers for Smart Solar.” Simply put, it guarantees the right to own and use solar power.

And therein lies the first problem critics have with Amendment 1. They say it’s misleading because Floridians already have that right. Floridians for Solar Choice Chairman Tory Perfetti says that’s a red flag for a hidden agenda.

“This amendment is an attempt to manipulate people into falsely believing it is currently illegal to buy or lease solar.”

Critics say the real goal is lower down in the amendment, in a provision that protects regular utility customers from “subsidizing” solar users. Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s Stephen Smith says that would open the door to punitive rates for solar users.

“The only people utilities are protecting are their shareholders and their profits.”

Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente agreed with critics when the amendment came up for a routine ballot review.

But a conservative majority ruled the amendment isn’t misleading because a future Legislature could always outlaw solar. Amendment 1 supporters also argue that solar users depend on the grid when the sun doesn’t shine, but don’t share the cost of maintaining it.

According to the polls, critics face an uphill battle. St. Leo University Polling Institute showed 77 percent support, comfortably above the 60 percent threshold to pass.