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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Dem legislator told she's not welcome at Progress Energy's game day box

15

November

Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda was told this week she's not exactly welcome as her fellow Democrats use the Progress Energy sky box for Saturday's Florida State University game against the University of Virginia.

The gift, which will presumably show up on the party's campaign disclosure forms as an in-kind contribution, was intended for the party, but party leaders are apparently doing a little vote screening on behalf of the donor.

Rehwinkel Vasilinda, a Tallahassee Democrat, is sponsor of a bill to repeal the nuclear cost recovery clause that allows state utility regulators to order customers to pay for the development and construction of nuclear power plants even if those plants never really get built. Progress Energy has benefitted greatly from that clause, having received the ability to charge customers for the past three years for a $20 billion nuclear power plant planned in Levy County. The company opposes the law's repeal.

Suzanne Grant, spokeswoman for Progress Energy Florida, said that the company "made the box available at the game for the Democratic Party. The party invited individuals, not Progress Energy."

Democratic Party spokeswoman Brannon Jordan said Rehwinkel Vasilinda "is an independent minded leader. If she disagrees with an industry she stands firm in her principles and has done so in this instance." She said that it doesn't mean that Dems who do show up are also endorsing Progress Energy's position on nuclear power.

Rehwinkel Vasilinda could not be reached for comment. She has told the Herald/Times in the past that she believes its a short-sighted law. She is a proponent of renewable energy and believes nuclear energy is an expensive antiguated approach to energy that fails to look at the changing economic and scientific advancements. She has argued that investment in nuclear power now will make it more difficult for regulators to walk away from the need for it in the future.

But the bill, proposed by Rehwinkel Vasilinda in the House and Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, in the Senate, hasn't gotten a hearing for the past two years. In that time, Progress Energy has contributed at least $1.5 million to Florida's political parties according to Followthemoney.org.

[Last modified: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 3:56pm]

    

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