Poll: Florida voters favor alternative energy proposals

By John Severance | Jul 15, 2016

SAINT LEO – Florida voters support two different alternative energy proposals that will be on the ballot in August and November, according to the Saint Leo University Polling Institute.

The polling institute director likes the chances of the amendments passing.

“I think Amendment Four is going to go through pretty unscathed,” Frank Orlando told the Florida Record. "There really isn't any opposition to it, and it seems pretty popular.”

Amendment Four is a bipartisan bill sponsored by two state Republicans (Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg and Rep. Ray Rodrigues of Fort Myers) and a Democrat (Rep. Lori Berman of Boynton Beach). It will be on the ballot for the Aug. 30 primary election.

The bill, which is supported by 68 percent in the poll, would exempt solar power equipment on homes from being counted toward a house’s value for property tax purposes. It also would exempt from taxation solar energy devices on commercial and industrial properties.

Amendment Four is opposed by 7 percent, with 25 percent unsure.

“I think Amendment Four is pretty straightforward, but the language of Amendment One might make it difficult for voters to understand,” Orlando said.  “The Florida Supreme Court struggled with the interpretation, so it's likely that citizens will struggle as well.”

Amendment One was favored by 77 percent in the poll and it granted state residents the right to own or lease equipment that produces solar energy for personal use. Only seven percent opposed the measure, with another 16 percent undecided. Amendment 1 will be on the ballot in November.

The Florida Supreme Court approved the amendment’s language by a 4-3 vote.

According to the ballot summary, the amendment gives individual consumers a constitutional right to own or lease solar equipment, that governments have the right to regulate solar and that “those who do not choose to install solar” are not required to “subsidize” those who do.

“Amendment One is being backed by the utility companies against the grassroots solar groups that were hoping to get their language on the ballot,” Orlando said.

State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente wrote in her opinion that the measure is “masquerading as a pro-solar initiative … actually seeks to constitutionalize the status quo.”

Orlando said he was not surprised by the polling numbers in regard to utilities.

“I'm not surprised, because people like the idea of alternative energy, and both of these proposals are being sold as expanding access to alternative energy,” Orlando said.

According to the polling institute, all surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument between June 10 and June 15. The statewide Florida poll contacted 500 residents (including 49 likely voters) selected in proportions that reflect the distribution of population statewide. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.57 percentage points on responses from likely voters, and 4.5 percentage points on responses from the broader survey base.  

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