Constitutional amendment petitions: Know before you sign

Recently my wife and I were having a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream on the boardwalk outside the new Margaritaville Resort Hotel on Hollywood Beach. A man with a clipboard under his arm comes up to us.

“You look like Florida voters; would you sign a petition amending our state’s constitution permitting solar instillation on homes,” he asked.

“Which petition are you supporting,” I asked.

He said: “What do you mean, which petition am I supporting?”

My response: “You do know there are two petitions on solar energy circulating around our state both seeking voter support. Which petition are you supporting?”

His reply: “Oh, yeah, they said something about Florida Power & Light liking this petition. Will you sign? It’s very important to the community. Also, I get paid by the number of signatures I collect.”

Here’s the story I tell him. We have two petition drives to amend our state constitution, both related to solar-generated electricity. One group, Floridians for Solar Choice, is seeking to open the market to competition. The other group, Consumers for Smart Solar, is seeking to preserve the status quo of state government regulation. Be careful.

They sound the same, but they go in opposite directions. Understand what you are supporting. There is a major difference between the two proposed amendments (Below quoted from the Miami Herald, Nov. 1).

“FLORIDIANS FOR SOLAR CHOICE: The amendment would open Florida’s energy market to competition by removing a ban on homeowners and businesses from signing lease agreements with companies to install equipment to generate up to two megawatts of electricity by solar energy and sell to contiguous properties. The homeowner or company would pay the third-party solar company for the cost of the power generated.”

“CONSUMERS FOR SMART SOLAR: The amendment maintains the status quo, which allows homeowners and companies to install solar equipment and sell the electricity it generates to the grid at retail costs — as long as homeowners and businesses pay for the installation and own it [the equipment] themselves. The proposal also will retain current laws that allow state and local governments to charge people who install solar to pay more for backup power and access to the electric grid — policies that have traditionally inhibited solar companies from attempting to compete with the existing utility monopolies.”

Four states, Florida being one of them, prohibit anyone except a licensed and regulated utility company from generating and selling power to consumers. For years, companies that manufacture, install and maintain home solar generating systems have been excluded from leasing power generation setups.

A home generating two megawatts can supply, on the average, 164 homes with power selling direct to the consumer and to the local utility company supplying the community in which it exists. What is interesting is that the battle by the two different concepts enjoys wide, diverse support.

Solar Choice has the backing of many environmentalist groups, the Tea Party Network, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, the League of Women Voters, and the Libertarian Party.

Smart Solar enjoys the backing of Tampa Electric, Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light, Gulf Power, the Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition and the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

The problem with signing a petition is understanding what the constitutional amendment stands for. Signature collectors are far more interested in the $3 or $4 they receive for each signature than the content of the proposed amendment. Little do most signature gatherers know how difficult it is to amend a constitutional amendment once it is in place.

Smart Solar and Solar Choice, both hope to get on the 2016 ballot. This requires collecting 683,149 valid signatures. Next, thanks to a recent amendment to our constitution the petition drive must receive 60 percent support at the polls.

This is serious business. All but four states in the U.S. permit the resale of electricity to the individual consumer. The end result is lower cost power. And less talked about is the availability of power to the ultimate consumer in the event of major destruction to a regional utility company generator site such as Turkey Point. Asolar panel is more quickly replaced than a nuclear power plant.

Me? I’m going with Solar Choice.

We appreciate your opinions on this column whether in agreement or disagreement. Send your comments to (fax number) 305-662-6980 or email to The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of this newspaper, its editors or publisher.

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About the Author

Kenneth Bluh
Kenneth has been writing a column for Community Newspapers since 1989 when he first wrote about the incorporation movement in UMSA (Unincorporated Municipal Services Area). His columns cover the political scene in Miami-Dade and Tallahassee. Educated at the Wharton School in Philadelphia, Kenneth has been a member of the banking/mortgage lending profession in Florida since 1962. Contact him at or 786-247-0547 where he manages American Bancshares Mortgage LLC’s Reverse Mortgage Department.

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