Tallahassee Democrat
“Solar amendment sparks a free market flare up”
By James Call
December 16, 2015A Tallahassee think tank says it wants to shed light on the implications of a proposed solar power amendment. A James Madison Institute report, Solar Carve Outs in the Sunshine State,found a $1 billion “cronyism tax” in the Floridians for Solar Choice amendment that proponents want on the November ballot.James Taylor is a JMI and Heartland Institute senior fellow who wrote the study. In it he argues the amendment is deceptively written to hide cost shifts and impose a constitutional mandate for the solar industry. His objection to the proposal begins with the amendment’s first sentence.The amendment states, “It shall be the policy of the state to encourage and promote local small-scale solar-generated electricity production and to enhance the availability of solar power to customers.”Taylor said the language could lead to “judicial mischief” far beyond what the proponents envision.“Because an activist court could interpret it as prohibiting the legislature from passing laws contradicting it and mandating laws encouraging solar power,” said Taylor. “It undermines free market principles.”Taylor projects within three years of the amendment’s passage there would be a billion dollar cost shift in the maintenance of the electrical grid system.  The amendment forbids utilities from billing solar users for grid maintenance.  JMI views the prohibition along with the current requirement that utilities maintain 100 percent grid capacity as a solar industry subsidy paid by the consumers who do not use or generate on-site solar.“No industry should receive constitutional carve outs for market shares, subsidies and regulations (because) it leads to higher taxes and prices for consumers,” said Bob McClure, JMI’s president and CEO.JMI is a free-market think tank with ties to the American Legislative Exchange and the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.  The report’s claims got a charge out of Floridians for Solar Choice supporters who said the findings are what it expected from the group.“It is unfortunate and also predictable that fossil-fuel funded, monopoly utility front groups James Madison Institute and Heartland’s James Taylor created a bogus report on the Floridians for Solar Choice ballot Amendment,” said Debbie Dooley of Conservatives for Energy Freedom who also said she would look into the findings from a “more technical perspective.”“They are trying to deny Floridians the right to engage in commerce with excess power produced on their private property,” Dooley added.The Floridians for Solar Choice is one of two proposed amendments backers are currently collecting signatures to get on the November ballot. Consumers for Smart Solar is a utility-backed measure that would essentially enshrine in the constitution current utility regulations.A JMI policy analyst said the current arrangement is not consistent with free market principles, and a spokesperson added that JMI has not taken a position on the Smart Solar proposal.Floridians for Solar Choice has been approved by the Florida Supreme Court for a ballot spot if it gets the required number of signatures. The Court has yet to review Consumers for Smart Solar.Proponents for both proposals need to submit 683,149 signatures to the Division of Elections by Feb. 1 to earn a ballot spot.Election officials say as of Wednesday they had counted 262,499 signatures for Floridians for Solar Choice and 376,646 for Consumers for Smart Solar.Article: http://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/politics/2015/12/16/solar-amendment-sparks-free-market-flare-up/77429266/