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Next stop for solar ballot petition: Florida Supreme Court

Published Apr. 24, 2015

A ballot petition that would allow those who generate electricity from the sun to sell the power directly to other consumers moved to its final legal hurdle Friday with a request by Florida's attorney general for Supreme Court review.

Attorney General Pam Bondi stated in a letter to the court that the ballot title and summary meet basic requirements. But she also asked for the court's opinion on that matter.

Additionally, she asked for the court's opinion on whether the language "will lead to confusion as to the intent of the amendment or otherwise fail to provide voters and consumers with fair notice."

Bondi also questioned whether the amendment might "substantially affect multiple functions of government."

Under Florida law, the attorney general presents a ballot petition to the state Supreme Court for review to determine whether the initiative's language meets legal requirements to appear on the ballot.

Ballot proposals also are reviewed for state fiscal impact.

The 2016 ballot petition was sent to Bondi a month ago for her review before it was presented to the court.

"While we were disappointed it has taken the full 30 days to advance to this critical step, we now eagerly await the Supreme Court's opinion and hope they will move quickly to render their decision so we can secure a place on the 2016 ballot for this amendment," said Tory Perfetti, chairman of Floridians for Solar Choice, which is sponsoring the petition. "Even as we wait for the high court's decision, we will continue building support for our ballot campaign by gathering thousands of signatures from Floridians eager for solar choice."

If the court determines the petition meets legal requirements, the initiative still must win 683,149 signatures by Feb. 1 for inclusion on the 2016 ballot. Currently, there are 85,505 validated signatures.

The effort has forged an unusual alliance of tea party and Christian Coalition conservatives and libertarians, as well as environmental groups such as the Southern Alliance, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. The Florida Retail Federation, Physicians for Social Responsibility and others also have joined in the effort.

If the proposed ballot measure passes, business or property owners could produce up to 2 megawatts of solar power and sell it directly to others, such as tenants, without having to go through a utility.

But such groups as the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity have challenged the benefits of solar. The state's investor-owned utilities also say rooftop solar is an inefficient, costly way for the state to produce power.

Contact Ivan Penn at ipenn@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2332. Follow @Consumers_Edge.

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