Editorial: More reasons to reject anti-solar amendment

Published November 7 2016
Updated November 7 2016

Voters have one last chance today to defeat Amendment 1, the sham-solar measure on the statewide ballot. The constitutional amendment has been so deceitful that a key supporter — the union representing the state's firefighters — has withdrawn its endorsement after its members complained for weeks that the campaign was misleading Florida voters into thinking that solar equipment was dangerous. This is only the latest falsehood in a campaign financed almost entirely by the state's electric monopolies in a bid to protect their own profits.

Consumers for Smart Solar, the industry front group behind the amendment, had featured firefighters in its advertisements, suggesting that Amendment 1 would reduce the fire hazards of solar equipment. But the ballot measure would do no such thing. Those installing solar would be subject to the same permitting regulations as before. The ballot amendment would not require any change to state law or local ordinances. After "hundreds, if not thousands" of firefighters across the state balked at the false message, the union said, it reversed course. A retired fire captain from Miami said using firefighters to prey on Floridians' safety fears was "one of the biggest scams" in state history, and he worried that firefighters would lose the public's faith in the process.

This is par for the course with this amendment, which would only enshrine in the Florida Constitution existing state laws that make solar less accessible and more expensive than it should be. The utilities created this measure in response to a genuinely pro-solar amendment that would have been consumer-friendly but did not make it on the ballot. The point all along was to confuse the public. The firefighters never should have gotten involved, but their about-face exposes the bad faith and bad public policy behind this amendment.

The firefighters' reversal came as PolitiFact, the Times' fact-checking site, also debunked the sponsor's claim that the amendment would safeguard consumers, especially seniors. PolitiFact ranked that false: The amendment, on its own, does not protect seniors or anyone against solar scams or ripoffs. Again, the measure includes no change in state or local laws. Organizers simply are hawking another false claim. A state analysis found that under the amendment, "state and local governments will retain their abilities" to protect public health, safety and welfare.

The utilities have contributed most of the $26 million poured into this campaign because they want to protect the status quo. Voters who want solar options should reject Amendment 1 — and this deceitful method of political advertising.