Daily Business Review
“Solar Power, Medical Marijuana Top Amendment Proposals”
By Samantha Joseph
December 28, 2015If activists like Jesus-2-Justice, Ax the Tax and the League of Voters Extraordinaire had their way, Florida voters in the November 2016 general election would face at least 30 questions at the poll, weighing dozens of measures to propose legislation or amend the state’s Constitution.Among other goals, the ballot initiatives would require employers to provide paid sick time to staff, give voters exclusive rights to authorize casino gambling, instruct tolling authorities to obtain voter approval before raising rates, and create a single-payer health care system allowing users to visit the provider of their choice.Few of the proposals gained enough momentum to make it past the early qualification process and a review by the attorney general.Among those fizzling: The proposed “Florida faith amendment,” which would assert “that the fundamental foundation of society and government is provided by the Holy Bible and Christian faith.”Initiatives need 683,149 signatures — roughly 10 percent of voters in the last general election — by Feb. 1 to qualify for the ballot and allow a public vote on a proposed statute or constitutional amendment.And once they’re on the ballot, at least 60 percent of voters must approve constitutional amendments.It’s an expensive and complicated feat, and even some of the stronger contenders for a spot on next year’s ballot appear to be faltering.
One of the most popular proposals came from Floridians for Solar Choice Inc., a group of Tea Party supporters and environmentalists working to allow individuals and businesses, not just Florida’s utility companies, to sell solar electricity.Florida is one of four states — along with North Carolina, Kentucky and Oklahoma — that prevents citizens from purchasing electricity from sellers other than utility companies. This group wants to change that. It collected 273,280 verified signatures as of Dec. 22 to get its proposed amendment on the ballot. It has another 212,000 signatures awaiting verification by the Florida Department of Elections, which has 30 days from the date of receipt to complete the process.But it seems unlikely Solar Choice Inc. will collect the nearly 198,000 verified signatures still needed by Feb. 1 to get its initiative on the November ballot. In light of the shortfall, group leaders told The Associated Press they were exploring options to get on the 2018 ballot, instead of November’s.Opponents, meanwhile, say the proposal would shift millions of dollars in costs to consumers who remain with utility companies.The James Madison Institute, a nonpartisan economic think-tank based in Tallahassee, published a policy brief arguing against providing a constitutional carveout for solar energy.It said Florida law requires traditional utility companies to maintain a network that provides for all households with their operating area, regardless of whether or not these households are connected to their grid. As households increasingly move off the grid and switch to solar energy, it would be up to the remaining consumers to cover fixed maintenance costs, which could pass $1 billion within three years, the institute argues.”We felt very strongly that the issue at hand is a public policy question, not an issue for the Florida Constitution,” James Madison Institute vice president of policy Sal Nuzzo told the Daily Business Review. “The makeup of Florida’s energy portfolio is not something that should be determined by the Constitution. That’s a matter for legislators and elected officials to determine.”Meanwhile, a rival proposal backed by utility companies is working its way through the approval process with a $6 million war chest and 479,050 verified signatures.The initiative, called Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice, has support from energy companies like Florida Power and Light Co., Tampa Electric Co. and Duke Energy based in Charlotte, North Carolina.It now needs approval from the Florida Supreme Court, which must determine whether the proposed ballot complies with state law.But the latest notice from the high court suggests that part of the process would run precariously close to the Feb. 1 deadline for qualifying ballot initiatives.On Dec. 1, the Florida Supreme Court ordered parties to file briefs by Jan. 11 and answer briefs by Feb. 1, leaving supporters of the Rights of Electricity Consumers initiative to continue gathering public support without knowing whether the measure will pass the legal test.Article: http://www.dailybusinessreview.com/id=1202745813231/Solar-Power-Medical-Marijuana-Top-Amendment-Proposals?mcode=0&curindex=0&curpage=2