1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

House and Senate down on energy choice ballot initiative

Attorneys for the House wrote that the initiative is an “abuse of the initiative process.”
Published Apr. 19

In filings to the state Supreme Court late Thursday, both the Florida House and Senate said they oppose the petition-driven ballot initiative that would reform how consumers purchase electricity in Florida.

The proposal, put forward by the Citizens for Energy Choices political committee, calls for the customers’ “right to choose” and would loosen the grip of private utility monopolies like Florida Power & Light, Gulf Power, Duke Energy and Tampa Electric Co. It would allow customers to pick their electricity providers from a competitive market or give them more options to produce solar energy themselves.

Attorneys for the House wrote that the initiative would have a "deleterious effect" and they consider this change to the state's constitution an "abuse of the initiative process."

They wrote that instead of altering the state's constitutional language, this proposal essentially aims to legislate by amendment.

“The current initiative proposes to add what essentially is a legislative policy to the Constitution — rather than address a structural or rights feature of the current charter,” they wrote.

Senate President Bill Galvano argued that the initiative violates the single-subject rule found in the state's constitution, which allows voters to know what an amendment does and how it will affect the Constitution.

He wrote that if passed, the amendment would "dramatically affect" the functions of multiple branches and levels of government, and would force voters to choose among numerous different policy choices.

Galvano also took issue with the ballot summary and language, which he said fails to touch upon the "sweeping effects" it would have. He also added that if passed, the language would require the Legislature to "upend the entire electric utility regulatory framework."

The language aims to protect customers against deceptive or unfair practices and establish an independent market to make energy sales competitive, the Alachua-based committee says.

Last month Attorney General Ashley Moody weighed in against the amendment, describing it as a veiled attempt to “eliminate” the state’s investor-owned utilities, such as Florida Power & Light.

Although it sells itself as a pro-consumer choice measure, Moody wrote that the amendment’s “undisclosed chief purpose” is actually the opposite.

The amendment’s language, she argued, requires creating a law “prohibiting investor-owned utilities from owning, operating, or even leasing any facilities which generate electricity.”

The result, she wrote, would prevent those utilities from competing in the new electric utility market.

“The title and this statement give the misleading impression that investor-owned utilities would still be able to sell electricity to customers, competing with additional, new providers,” Moody wrote. “But the actual text of the amendment forbids such activity.”

Several other groups have filed petitions in opposition to the proposal, including investor-owned utility companies, municipal electric groups and electric cooperatives.

The petitions come at a time when several bills by Republicans are moving through the Legislature to significantly alter the amendment process. One bill makes it far more difficult to gather the signatures needed to get constitutional amendments before Florida voters. Another bill would raise the vote threshold for an amendment's passage from 60 percent to two-thirds. A third bill aims to abolish the Constitution Revision Commission, a 37-member body that meets every 20 years to review and proposes changes to the state constitution.

The fight has turned into a partisan one, as progressives locked out of power in Tallahassee over the last 20 years have seen their policies passed by voters who approved amendments like protecting environmental lands and restoring voting rights to felons.

Alex Patton, chairman of Citizens for Energy Choices, said his group has "far more respect" for voters than utilities and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, who have lobbied heavily against the proposal and in favor of legislation to limit the process.

He said while he can't comment on the specific briefs, the committee is confident in their legal footing and look forward to having their day in court.

"I do hope I at least receive a thank-you card from all the white-shoe firms hired by the utilities and their political buddies for their increase in billable hours," Patton said in a text message. "Truly unprecedented."

Oral arguments on the proposal are currently scheduled for Aug. 28, 2019.


  1. Vice President Mike Pence reacts during an immigration and naturalization ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ALEX BRANDON  |  AP
    Katie Waldman, a former University of Florida student senator, was accused of helping discard independent student newspapers with a front-page endorsement of a rival party’s candidate. | Analysis
  2. Richard Swearingen, Florida's Commissioner of the Department of Law Enforcement, testifies before state lawmakers on Monday. Florida Channel
    But law enforcement officials are getting behind a “threat assessment system.”
  3. Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, urges the Florida Board of Education to hold schools accountable for teaching the Holocaust and African-American history, as required by lawmakers in 1994. The board was considering a rule on the matter at its Sept. 20, 2019, meeting in Jacksonville. The Florida Channel
    School districts will have to report how they are providing the instruction required in Florida law.
  4. The Mar-a-Lago Resort in Palm Beach. JOE RAEDLE  |  Getty Images
    It wasn’t immediately clear how much Mar-a-Lago would charge to host the Marine Corps Birthday Ball — or even if it might do so for free.
  5. In this March 24, 2018, file photo, crowds of people participate in the March for Our Lives rally in support of gun control in San Francisco. JOSH EDELSON  |  AP
    ‘Guns are always a volatile topic in the halls of the legislature,’ one Republican said.
  6. Pasco County school superintendent Kurt Browning says Fortify Florida, the new state-sponsored app that allows students to report potential threats, is "disrupting the education day" because the callers are anonymous, many of the tips are vague and there's no opportunity to get more information from tipsters. "I have an obligation to provide kids with a great education," Browning said. "I cannot do it with this tool, because kids are hiding behind Fortify Florida." JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |
    Vague and anonymous tips often waste law enforcement’s time and disrupt the school day, says Kurt Browning, president of Florida’s superintendents association.
  7. Tonight's LGBTQ Presidential Forum is hosted by Angelica Ross of FX's Pose. Twitter
    A live stream of the event and what to watch for as 10 candidates meet on stage in Iowa.
  8. In this April 11, 2018, file photo, a high school student uses a vaping device near a school campus in Cambridge, Mass.  [AP Photo | Steven Senne] STEVEN SENNE  |  AP
    "The department does not appear to have the authority to do anything.”
  9. Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos listens to a speaker share an opinion about a city matter during a city council meeting at Clearwater City Hall in Clearwater, Fla. on Thursday, April 20, 2017.  On Thursday, the Clearwater City Council rejected the mayor's resolution urging lawmakers to ban assault weapons.  [Times files] TIMES FILES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    However, the city did pass a resolution calling for more modest gun control measures.
  10. Maurice A. Ferré at his Miami home earlier this year. JOSE A. IGLESIAS  |  Miami Herald
    He served as mayor for 12 years and set the stage for Miami to become an international city.