Tampa Grassroots Conservative Group Says No to Solar Power Amendment

Published May 7, 2015

A Tampa grassroots conservative group with over 2,000 members is officially opposing a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution to give the solar power industry a monopoly for on-site electricity sales to homes and businesses. The Tampa 912 Project, one of the most influential grassroots organizations in the Sunshine State, announced its opposition in an April 13 statement. 

Floridians for Solar Choice claims an alliance of environmentalists, renewable power advocates, and free-market conservatives and libertarians support the proposed constitutional amendment to give the solar power industry the exclusive right to sell electricity directly to homes and businesses. 

Debate Changes Minds

Tory Perfetti, chair of Floridians for Solar Choice, asked to make a presentation to Tampa 912 Project in early March. Tampa 912 Project leadership determined fairness demanded they invite an amendment critic to also address the group. The leadership reached out to Heartland Institute senior fellow James Taylor, who had written an article criticizing the proposed amendment. Tampa 912 Project scheduled a debate between Perfetti and Taylor at the group’s March 24 monthly membership meeting.

Before the debate, comments by Tampa 912 Project members on the group’s message board indicated overwhelming support for the proposed amendment. During the debate, however, Taylor pointed out the proposed amendment leaves the existing utility monopolies firmly in place, with the only change being prohibitively expensive and heavily subsidized solar power will now get a new and additional monopoly regarding on-site power sales. Rather than striking a blow for free markets and against utility monopolies, the proposed amendment would entrench and expand electricity monopolies. 

Reporters from the American Spectator and the Tampa Tribune attended the debate. Both publications reported Taylor won the debate, and Tampa 912 Project members appeared to confirm this in comments on the Tampa 912 Project message board after the debate. 

Project Unanimously Rejects Proposal

On April 13, the Tampa 912 Project board of directors voted unanimously to oppose the proposed amendment.

“It is the unanimous decision of the Board of the Tampa 912 Project to not support the solar energy ballot initiative to amend the Florida Constitution,” the group noted in an April 13 statement.

Tampa 912 Project’s statement says it will “support a Florida legislative effort that leads to free markets for all energy sources.” 

“The solar power industry may have bought off a few Florida lobbyists, but it cannot buy off the grassroots women and men who remain vigilant in defense of economic freedom,” Taylor told Environment & Climate News. “Floridians for Solar Choice is nothing more than a front group for the solar power industry and big-government liberal activists.”

Taylor said, “Any changes in state law should ensure consumers can purchase electricity from whomever and whatever source they please. It is antithetical to free markets and affordable energy to make it a constitutional requirement that the inefficient and heavily subsidized solar power industry gets a legally enforceable position at the front of the line of the government pork trough,” Taylor added. 

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D. ([email protected]) is a senior policy analyst with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) in Washington, DC.