Talla Talk: Smart Solar, Tourism Marketing, Scott Budget Plan

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    Smart Solar Ballot to Supreme Court

    A utility-backed ballot proposal that would outline rules about solar power in Florida was sent Tuesday to the state Supreme Court for review. Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office forwarded the “Consumers for Smart Solar” proposal to the state’s top court to determine if the proposed ballot language is limited to a single subject, the wording is unambiguous and the summary meets a 75-word limit. The proposed constitutional amendment — financially backed by Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, Gulf Power and Tampa Electric — is one of two rival solar amendments that could be on the November 2016 ballot. The Consumers for Smart Solar ballot summary states: “This amendment establishes a right under Florida’s Constitution for consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use. State and local governments shall retain their abilities to protect consumer rights and public health, safety and welfare, and to ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do.” If the court signs off on the wording, backers of the initiative would need to submit a total of 683,149 valid petition signatures by Feb. 1 to get on the November 2016 ballot. Consumers for Smart Solar had submitted 250,007 valid signatures as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the state Division of Elections. The Supreme Court has already approved ballot language for the rival initiative, sponsored by a group called “Floridians for Solar Choice.” That proposal, in part, would allow businesses to generate and sell up to two megawatts of solar power to customers on the same or neighboring properties. In doing so, it would largely shield the solar producers from state and local regulations. Floridians for Solar Choice had submitted 230,763 signatures as of Tuesday.

    $80 Million Proposed for Tourism Marketing

    The state’s tourism-marketing arm would receive a boost of $6 million from the current year under Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed $79.3 billion budget released Monday. The proposal comes amid Scott’s drive for Florida to attract 100 million visitors in a single calendar year. Under his proposal, Visit Florida would receive $80 million during the fiscal year that starts July 1, of which $30 million would be non-recurring or one-time funds for its marketing efforts. State lawmakers will craft a final budget during the 2016 legislative session, which begins in January. Scott announced last week that Florida saw a record 79.1 million tourists in the first nine months of the year, with the tourism industry now accounting for 1.195 million jobs, up 5.2 percent from a year earlier.

    Lawmakers To Review Scott Budget Plan

    With Gov. Rick Scott proposing a $79.3 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, House and Senate committees next week will start looking at details of the plan. Numerous legislative panels will receive presentations about Scott’s proposal, which is an initial step as lawmakers prepare to draw up a budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to receive a presentation at noon Tuesday from Scott’s budget chief, Cynthia Kelly, and the Senate Appropriations Committee will receive a presentation at 10 a.m. next Wednesday, according to calendars posted online. Also, subcommittees will receive a series of presentations, starting Tuesday with the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee and the House Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee. Meanwhile, the House Finance & Tax Committee on Tuesday is expected to hear about Scott’s proposed $1 billion tax-cut package. Five Senate budget subcommittees are slated to receive presentations next Thursday.

    The News Service of Florida