Imagine a bunch of guys going before the Florida Supreme Court and telling our august justices: “Hey, we want to put a constitutional amendment measure on the November ballot that offers up a trough of duplicitous hogwash that plays the people of this state for a bunch of naive chumps and makes it easier for us to rip them off.”
What did a majority of the black robes say? “Yeah, sure, go ahead. Sounds great to us. No problem. Have fun.”
And that is how we got the phony Amendment 1 on the ballot this year, an idea that has all the credibility of a Syrian truce agreement.
The amendment is called “Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice.” But this scheme has precious little to do with choice. If you have any doubt about that, consider that more than $20 million in utility industry financing has poured into the campaign to foist Amendment 1 off on the public as if it was an environmental tour de force, among them Tampa Electric, Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light, companies that no one has ever confused with the Audubon Society. Talk about “rigged elections”!
In August, voters approved Amendment 4, a legitimate measure that simply permitted businesses to take advantage of a tax benefit extended to individuals taking advantage of solar power.
The three-card monte Amendment 1 would allow power companies to impose new fees on solar customers to recoup the loss of revenue when solar customers don’t buy their power, thus undermining the economic value of implementing a solar power panel system. The amendment also restricts the ability of solar power users to sell off excess electricity in the marketplace, which always has been one of the key selling points to encourage more people to install solar panels. Capitalism, oh dear.
Earlier this year, the power companies and one of their chief strategists were exposed gleefully admitting they were cooking the books against consumers when Mary Ellen Klas of the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau discovered an audio recording of Sal Nuzzo, vice president of the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, boasting that Amendment 1 was an “incredibly savvy maneuver” to short-circuit pro-solar interests.
Nuzzo went on to describe Amendment 1 as political “jiu-jitsu” by using language that appears to be promoting solar power, while at the same time actually stiffing solar power users. Do you get the feeling James Madison is spinning in his grave over a Founding Father’s name being used to mislead the public?
As unctuous as Nuzzo’s comments were, they make sense.
The Amendment 1 conspiracy of megawatts is banking that in a highly contentious election season when most of the focus is on the bitter back and forth between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, most voters will not pay close attention to the ballot language.
Rather voters will see: “Rights of Electricity Customers Regarding Solar Energy Choice” and think to themselves: “Hmmm, rights. Solar Energy. Choice. That sounds pretty good to me,” and vote Yes. It’s not that voters are stupid. Or gullible. They’re merely busy. And they have a right to expect a ballot measure actually does what it promises to do.
Is it any surprise that the power companies bankrolling this canard didn’t title it “The Glorification of Motherhood, Puppies, Maypoles, Apple Brown Betty and Walton Mountain”?
The Florida Supreme Court could have called the bluff and rejected Amendment 1 as a deceptive ploy gilded in the veneer of good intentions. Instead, four of the justices, Charles Canady, Ricky Polston, Jorge Labarga and R. Fred Lewis went along and approved the ballot language.
As well, the Florida Legislature could have long ago done its due diligence and addressed the rights of solar power customers. But this is a body that busies itself lighting votive candles to special interests like the state’s energy industry as members stuff campaign contributions into their jodhpurs.
For when it comes to the grip on Tallahassee by the legions of big-energy lobbyists, Florida isn’t really a state. We’re all simply bozo serfs toiling away on an electrical grid fiefdom.