As election day draws near in the U.S., Florida solar advocates filed legal actions in the state Supreme Court against the highly controversial Amendment 1 on Wednesday.
Grassroots organization Floridians for Solar Choice (FSC) and the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association (FlaSEIA) claim that a recently leaked audio recording of a James Madison Institute (JMI) executive confirms Amendment 1, a utility-backed ballot measure, was always intended to deceive Florida voters into believing the amendment is pro-solar. As previously reported, JMI later said the executive “misspoke,” and Consumers for Smart Solar, the campaign supporting Amendment 1, denied working with JMI. Although Florida utilities have contributed millions of dollars in support of Amendment 1, FSC and FlaSEIA further charge that at least one state utility has several connections to JMI.
Local and national solar advocates, including Vote Solar and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), have long argued that Amendment 1 could actually lead to barriers for the Florida solar industry. Namely, solar advocates worry the amendment’s use of the undefined term “subsidize” could pave the way for Florida utilities to implement fees on solar customers and change net-metering policies.
In their new legal filings, FSC and FlaSEIA have asked the Florida Supreme Court to reopen its case involving the proposed amendment and requested that the court declare the Amendment 1 ballot language unconstitutionally vague and misleading and order that the Florida Secretary of State not be allowed to count any votes cast for the measure.
“The Florida Solar Energy Industries Association is made up of small businesses throughout Florida trying to make an honest living, and Amendment 1 repeats the pattern of behavior we’ve seen before: large electric utilities continue to use their monopoly control to suppress the free market and limit the development of customer-owned solar in Florida,” said Bill Gallagher, board member of FlaSEIA.
Dr. Stephen A. Smith, board member of FSC, adds, “We are increasingly confident that Florida voters will vote this down, but we are concerned that thousands of voters have already been fooled by Amendment 1’s true intent. Many of our members and supporters have asked that we take these actions as ‘insurance,’ given the extraordinary amount of money and deceptive activities the utilities are throwing at this in the final days.”
Separately, SEIA says polls show Amendment 1 losing more than 20% of the support of voters since the release of the JMI recording, during which the executive calls the measure “an incredibly savvy maneuver.”
SEIA says Civis Analytics conducted a poll from Sept. 29 to Oct. 9 and then again from Oct. 20 to Oct. 25, targeting likely voters. In the first iteration, 73% of voters were planning to vote “yes” on Amendment 1, and 13% planned to vote “no”. In the second collection, SEIA continues, support for the amendment declined by more than 20%, with 51% planning to vote “yes” and 38% planning to vote “no.” The amendment needs 60% “yes” votes to amend the Florida state constitution.
“For months, the solar industry has been beating the drum about the dishonesty of Amendment 1 and its devastating impact on jobs, economic growth, and the rights of Floridians to choose their own clean energy sources,” said Tom Kimbis, interim president SEIA, in a press release. “Floridians are waking up to the fact they are being deceived, and it is absolutely critical – no matter what the poll numbers – that they go to the polls or mail in ballots to say NO to Amendment 1.”
A local Fox 13 report cites an email from a Consumers for Smart Solar spokesperson, who said the legal actions were “just political grandstanding at its best to deter Florida voters from voting in favor of Amendment 1, which simply safeguards consumer rights, consumer protection and consumer fairness as we grow solar in Florida.”
To learn more about Amendment 1, check out Solar Industry‘s recent coverage, “Florida’s Solar Amendment 1: A Trick Or A Treat?” by clicking here.