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Electricity Deregulation Amendment Heard By Fl Supreme Court

A power tower
A power tower

A proposed change to the state Constitution that would alter the way Floridians get their electricity came before the state Supreme Court Wednesday. The amendment needs the justices' blessings before it can get on next year's ballot.
Backers say it would allow customers to pick their electricity providers from a competitive market.

Ken Sukhia is an attorney for the political committee Citizens for Energy Choices, which is based in Gainesville, Florida. 

"The case involves simply a matter of bringing to a particular industry a free and open choice in a free-market society, where a monopoly is no longer needed," he told the justices. 

The amendment is opposed not only by electric utilities, but by many politicians and businesses. Florida Chief Deputy Attorney General John Guard said the wording on the ballot would mislead consumers into thinking they could keep their current utilities.

"This initiative's main undisclosed purpose is to create a new energy market that excludes the investor-owned utilities from participating in that new market, and that failure to clearly disclose that effect makes this initiative defective under this court's precedent," he said during the oral arguments. "And further, this initiative does so in a way that hides the ball and will mislead the voters."

Attorney General Ashley Moody requested thes opinion as to whether the text of the proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution, titled “Right to Competitive Energy Market for Customers of Investor-Owned Utilities; Allowing Energy Choice,” complies with Florida law and meets two legal requirements: it contains only a single subject; and has a fair ballot summary

Justice Robert Luck asked whether “reasonable voters” would understand that they could not keep ther current electricity provider if the amendment passes. 

The justices did not indicate when they would rule.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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