Saturday, February 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Court should reject 'solar' amendment

The Florida Supreme Court heard a compelling argument this week that a thinly veiled attempt to use the Florida Constitution to protect the electric monopolies misleads voters into thinking it is something entirely different. The wording of this solar energy measure financed by the utilities is deceptive, and the justices should not allow it to go on the fall ballot. The amendment is an attempt to block the private market for solar in Florida — not to expand consumer choice — and voters should not be confronted with this sneak attack.

The misnamed Consumers for Smart Solar, a special interest group financed by the regulated utilities, is behind a constitutional amendment its supporters say promotes "a sensible, fair and safe expansion of solar energy" in Florida. The measure does no such thing. It merely cements into the Constitution the antimarket restrictions that already exist in state law and keeps the market for solar effectively closed, too expensive for the general public.

The issue before the court is a narrow one: Does the proposed amendment deal with a single subject, and is the summary that would appear on the ballot clear enough for voters to make an informed decision? By lumping energy, regulatory and tax policy into a single question, the ballot summary stretches the limit of the single-subject test. The real problem, though, is the measure is grossly misleading, implying it would give Floridians more rights and control over solar than what exists now.

The amendment mentions consumer "rights" and solar "choice," but it doesn't expand either. It merely would enshrine into the Constitution the rights and regulations affecting solar that already exist in state law. Rather than expanding choice for consumers, the measure does the opposite. Giving the electric monopolies the additional constitutional protection for their outdated business models would put Florida even further behind in the use of renewable energies. That's why the industry has spent nearly $7 million on the measure, which came about in reaction to a ballot proposal conceived by environmentalists that would have truly brought competition to the solar market. That competing effort failed to get enough signatures for 2016 and is scheduled to come back in 2018.

In briefs to the court, the power companies have fumbled in trying to explain exactly what their proposal would and would not do. But they concede that the measure enshrines "no policy of any kind," adding that "no action is required by any state or local regulatory authority." So how does establishing a right and a regulatory framework for solar that already exists move the ball at all? This is varnish disguised as paint. So manufactured is the amendment that a state-required analysis found the measure "will not require any change in current or anticipated state and local regulation or taxation of solar energy in Florida."

The merits of the amendment and the implications of putting energy policy under the state Constitution are not before the court. Those are issues for the voters to decide. The justices, though, have an obligation to ensure that any amendment put to the electorate is factual, fair and instructive enough for voters to make an informed decision. This proposal fails that test.

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Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the state’s safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last week’s massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Association’s solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nation’s conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places — South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington — as survivors, victims’ families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasn’t enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldn’t take months or another tragedy for Florida — which is hot and full of seniors — to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. That’s why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.’’ A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he won’t raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trump’s claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nation’s 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

It’s not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18