Friday, June 22, 2018
Politics

Upsetting tea party, Scott allows energy bill to become law

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott disappointed tea party conservatives Friday by allowing a bipartisan energy proposal championed by Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam to become law without his signature.

Scott was intensely lobbied to veto the bill by Americans for Prosperity-Florida, a tea party-backed group that orchestrated more than 5,000 calls and emails. The group believed the energy legislation, which includes $100 million in tax incentives over five years for companies that invest in alternative energy, would result in wasteful government spending.

In a nod to the group's concerns, Scott said he would call for the law's repeal if it failed to produce "significant cost savings for the state's taxpayers."

Putnam made the energy legislation a top priority. He said opponents' analogies between his bill (HB 7117) and Solyndra — the energy company that went bankrupt after receiving hundreds of millions from the federal government — are inaccurate. His measure rewards companies after they complete energy upgrades or add jobs, he said.

The bill also requires utility regulators to evaluate Florida's fuel mix into the future. It repealed Florida's renewable portfolio standard mandate, which was never enacted.

As tensions over what Scott would do escalated, supporters of the bill — including the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida — responded with thousands of calls to Scott's office to refute tea party talking points.

Scott signed a slew of other bills late Friday, including one that allows the State Board of Administration to double its alternative investments and another pushed by Rep. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, that allows for the testing of self-driven vehicles on state roads.

He vetoed one bill Friday, HB 917, which deals with court jurisdiction. The measure, he said, would have allowed more out-of-state people and companies to use Florida's judicial system over some contract issues.

"Establishing Florida as a destination for lawsuits by entities outside of the state of Florida is unattractive for the business climate," he wrote in a veto letter. "Inviting additional civil litigation into Florida may add to the backlog of cases and increase the workload on our judicial system."

Times/Herald staff writer Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.

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