Get Ready to Vote on Amendment 4

Vote-By-Mail ballots are out! I know this because three friends emailed this afternoon to ask how I plan to vote on the two ballot items I haven’t written about yet: U.S. Senate and Amendment 4. In this post, I’ll write about Amendment 4. In another, I’ll write about the Democratic and Republican primary choices for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Marco Rubio. Stay tuned.

Amendment 4, a proposed amendment to Florida’s Constitution, is titled “Solar Devices or Renewable Energy Source Devices; Exemption from Certain Taxation and Assessment.”

It is an amendment proposed by the “citizens’ initiative process,” which this year requires 683,149 petitions to be signed by registered Florida voters from at least 14 of Florida’s 27 congressional districts in order to appear on the ballot. In other words, a lot of work went into getting this proposed amendment on the ballot. (I signed one of the petitions. Did you?)

According to Floridians for Solar Choice, the grassroots group behind the amendment:

Amendment 4 would exempt solar panels and other renewable energy equipment from the real property tax and the onerous tangible property tax – currently huge barriers to installing solar in Florida. This policy will lower the cost of solar, increase clean energy jobs, and greatly expand solar development across the state!

League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) President Pamela Goodman and Deirdre Macnab, Chair – Natural Resources/Solar, explained the amendment in a recent Guest Commentary in the Pensacola NewsJournal:

A remarkable battle is shaping up in Florida. On the one side is the utilities who have raised over $16 million to protect their monopoly fiefdom, and on the other a ragtag army of a vast array of citizen groups ranging from the Tea Party, Christian Coalition, League of Women Voters, and the Sierra Club.

What has drawn these civic groups together? A desire to help Floridians lower energy bills and create a free market for clean renewable energy power.

Yes, the LWVF, a nonpartisan POLITICAL organization, is one of the supporting organizations of Floridians for Solar Choice.

The LWVF is also spearheading a Solar Smart Policy Campaign to educate voters about this Amendment 4 as well as another, Amendment 1, that will be on the ballot in November that, the League says, “is almost fully funded by the utilities who have raised an incredible $16 million to place it on the ballot and reach voters. Because it places new barriers to solar, it is strongly opposed by a diverse army of citizen groups.”

Florida is one of only four states that prohibit citizens from buying electricity from anyone other than a utility, along with North Carolina, Kentucky and Oklahoma. I agree with the LWV that this prohibition limits customer choice and blocks the growth of solar power. The choice to harness solar power should be available to everyone.

I will vote YES on Amendment 4 in August.

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