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Romano: Even a dummy could pass Florida's solar energy test

Published Apr. 14, 2016

By most accounts, Florida has been a slacker in solar energy production.

Despite having enormous potential, Florida trails colder and less obvious states such as Massachusetts and New Jersey in producing solar energy.

When it comes to jobs in the solar field — Hello, Gov. Scott! — Florida has a fraction of the number it should based on this state's population.

Simple question No. 1:

Should Florida maintain the status quo?

Obvious answer No. 1:

Absolutely not. And yet that is the goal of a proposed constitutional amendment that was pimped in Tallahassee earlier this week. Amendment 1 — with a banana republic-sounding slogan Yes on 1 for the Sun — has been approved for the November ballot.

• • •

Yes on 1 for the Sun is the brainchild of the deep-pocketed powers that be in Florida.

When clean energy advocates began talking about a constitutional amendment that would have allowed businesses and homeowners to buy or sell small amounts of solar energy among neighbors, the rival status quo idea was quickly hatched.

As it turns out, the original grass roots amendment died in a dispute with a petition-gathering company, but the opposing group forged ahead.

And its status quo effort was no doubt aided by $4.5 million in donations from the state's big utility companies.

Simple question No. 2:

Are the electric companies just being benevolent?

Obvious answer No. 2:

Ha ha ha ha. These are the same companies that continue to bilk you out of billions of dollars in nuclear energy fees with virtually nothing to show for it. They have a vested interest in keeping you tethered to them, and they're willing to spend to see those ties maintained.

• • •

From the perspective of a legal scholar, the Florida Constitution should limit, rather than expand, the powers of state and local governments.

And yet Amendment 1 would give the state — and all the lawmakers who conveniently depend on power companies for campaign donations — the power to forever ban any nonutility from buying or selling solar energy.

The state Supreme Court approved, by a 4-3 vote, the amendment's language as "not clearly and conclusively defective." In other words, they didn't obviously lie.

In her dissent, Justice Barbara Pariente blasted the entire concept behind the amendment as misleading and deceptive. The amendment is worded to sound like consumers are getting increased options they already enjoy, while solidifying monopolies for utilities.

She called it a masquerade and a wolf in sheep's clothing.

"Let the pro-solar energy consumers beware," Pariente wrote.

Simple question No. 3:

Should Florida double down on what are already some of the most restrictive energy laws in the nation?

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Obvious answer No. 3:

Sure, if you like fewer options and higher bills.

• • •

The details can be confusing. The ramifications could be enormous. And there is another solar amendment in the August primary that deserves your consideration.

But if you understand nothing else about expanding solar energy in Florida, you should at least recognize that Amendment 1 was not written with your happiness in mind.

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