FL Supreme Court to consider removing Amendment 1 from ballot

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The Florida Supreme Court agreed to consider removing the solar-energy ballot initiative - Amendment 1 - after a case was filed Wednesday by opponents of the measure. 

Those against Amendment 1, which would regulate solar energy in Florida, said the measure is deceptively worded and fear Floridians who have already cast their ballots were unaware of the changes that could take affect if the amendment were to pass.

"The majority of Americans and the majority of Floridians support solar energy, and they want to vote for something that's supportive of solar. That's why this is so deceptive, because a vote 'yes' is really a vote 'no,'" said Alex Hobson, Communications Manager for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

First-time Tampa voter Jacob Ullmann said he voted early and voted 'yes' on Amendment 1 because he is an advocate of all things green.

"Clean energy is huge," said Ullmann."I had looked into it the day before I went to vote, and as far as I was concerned, what I had read about and what I was told, I thought voting for Amendment 1 meant voting for clean energy, so the ability to privatize energy for yourself and for personal use."

Opponents of the amendment said many voters are unaware that installing solar panels at their homes is already a possibility. The amendment is said to protect current and future solar users' rights to have their own power source under state and local laws, since the industry is currently under little regulation compared to utility companies.

The controversy over the amendment's wording stems from an audio recording, recently made public by the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald, in which policy director Sal Nuzzo was secretly recorded explaining how choice wording would benefit the pro-Amendment 1 campaign.

"Solar [power] polls very well, to the degree that we can use a little bit of political jujitsu, and take what they're hitting us on, and use it to our benefit," Nuzzo was recorded saying.

"It's deceptively worded, and you really need a law degree to understand what is behind it," said Hobson.

Those in favor of Amendment 1 said the recording does not prove deception, but rather savvy politics. They said the amendment is straight forward, explaining that it will bring government regulation and protection to the solar power industry.

"It just simply says government retains its ability to be involved in energy, and solar energy in this instance, decisions, [like] rate fairness," said Screven Watson, Board Member with the Consumers for Smart Solar.

Proponents say the wealthy are currently the ones who can afford solar panels, and once they go off the grid, other traditional utility customers will have to pay more to maintain the system.

"We are not opposed to solar expansion in the state, however, it shouldn't be done on the backs of those not wealthy enough in order to afford $15-25,000 lease or ownership," said Nuzzo.

Opponents of Amendment 1 are questioning why an amendment meant to protect the people's rights is being backed with millions of dollars from companies like Duke Energy and Florida Power and Light, which profit off traditional power remaining dominant.

"It's a sad fact that Florida lags so far behind it's far less sunny peers when it comes to solar energy. It shouldn't  be that way, and it doesn't need to be that way," said Hobson.

The majority of the Florida Supreme Court originally signed off on the amendment's wording. It's unclear if the lawsuit filed Wednesday will have any impact on the final decision made at the polls next week.