Business Groups Fight Utility Ballot Measure

Posted By: Garnie Holmes Industry , Legislative/Regulatory ,

Two of Florida’s most-powerful business groups said Thursday they oppose a proposed constitutional amendment that would overhaul the state’s electric utility industry. The Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida issued statements as the political committee Citizens for Energy Choices appeared on the verge of submitting enough petition signatures to trigger a review by the Florida Supreme Court of the proposed ballot wording.

The proposal calls for wholesale and retail electricity markets to “be fully competitive so that electricity customers are afforded meaningful choices among a wide variety of competing electricity providers.” It would establish a right for customers to choose electricity providers and would limit the role of investor-owned electric utilities --- private companies such as Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric Co. and Gulf Power Co. --- to constructing, operating and repairing transmission and distribution systems. Mark Wilson, president and chief executive officer of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said in a prepared statement that other states with deregulated utility industries have had “buyer’s remorse” because of issues such as increased power prices. “This proposal is a false promise wrapped in a too-good-to-be-true wrapper that has no place in our state's Constitution,” Wilson said. “Despite claiming to promote choice, it would prohibit Floridians from choosing the very Florida companies that currently serve them.” Similarly, Associated Industries President and CEO Tom Feeney said deregulation would lead to increased electricity costs and market uncertainty. “Deregulating Florida’s electric utility industry would create inefficient and uneven services throughout the state, causing major chaos when a natural disaster strikes,” Feeney said.

As of Thursday afternoon, Citizens for Energy Choices had submitted 74,015 valid petition signatures to the state, just short of a 76,632-signature threshold that would lead to Supreme Court review. If the Supreme Court signs off on the ballot wording, Citizens for Energy Choices would need to ultimately submit 766,200 valid signatures to get the measure on the November 2020 ballot.

Article reposted with permission from The News Service of Florida.