Florida Supreme Court hears case of proposed energy amendment

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - A proposed constitutional amendment aimed at opening up the utility market in Florida got its day before the Florida Supreme Court Wednesday morning.

The State Supreme Court is weighing whether voters would understand what they are being asked to vote for in 2020. (MGN)

Utility companies came out in force, asking the Supreme Court to block the amendment from the ballot.

The State Supreme Court weighed whether voters would understand what they are being asked to vote for in 2020.

After the hearing, one of the first out the door was FPL President Eric Silagy, a show of how important killing the amendment is to Florida’s major utility companies.

“Everybody is showing up here. It shows the stakes,” said Alex Patton, Chairman of Citizens for Energy Choice, the group pushing the amendment.

Dubbed the Energy Choice Amendment by supporters, it would prohibit Florida’s investor-owned utilities from power generation and storage, essentially limiting them to building and maintaining the poles and wires.

Private companies would take their place.

"It would allow consumers to choose. It would really have an effect on breaking up monopolies, which currently are anti-consumer, they're anti-competitive and they're a corrupting force on today's politics,” said Patton.

Amendment supporters said more competition will save the average family $300 a year with total savings hitting as high as $7 billion across the state.

If the amendment ultimately passes, the Florida Legislature would be directed to implement laws promoting competition in the energy marketplace and expressly prohibiting energy monopolies.

The laws would have to be in effect by June 1, 2025.

“This is quite simply and experiment that Florida cannot afford to chance,” said Brewster Bevis with the Associated Industries of Florida.

Utility companies argue the amendment doesn’t inform voters they’d lose their current providers as an option. They also said it doesn’t guarantee residents will be able to sell the electricity they produce as the ballot language claims.

“This language is as clear as mud,” said Bevis.

Amendment sponsors dismiss those concerns.

“What they are providing is a very misleading argument that is clear as mud,” said Patton.

If the Supreme Court doesn’t strike down the amendment, it will likely make it to the 2020 ballot.

Sponsors said they’re on track to reach the required 766,000 signatures by the end of the year.