Florida Association of Realtors, Inc., d/b/a Florida Realtors (hereafter “Florida Realtors”) is Florida’s largest trade association, with over 187,000 real estate professionals as members. Florida Realtors carefully monitors legal developments for their potential impact on Florida’s real estate industry.
Where a proposed change in Florida law may affect property values and the costs associated with owning real property in Florida, including utility costs and ad valorem taxes, Florida Realtors can offer its expertise to promote a positive environment for the sale of real property. As demonstrated in this brief, the proposed constitutional amendment titled “Right to Competitive Energy Market for Customers of Investor-Owned Utilities; Allowing Energy Choice” presents significant uncertainties regarding its impact on these areas, and it does so through ballot language that violates Florida law. Accordingly, Florida Realtors submits this brief in opposition to the proposed amendment.
From its title and the opening words of its ballot summary, the Proposed Amendment touts a “right to choose” for Florida citizens, indicating that its passage will provide Florida citizens with a “choice” among competitors for the provision of electricity. In fact, however, the Proposed Amendment actually serves the dual purposes of (1) requiring that a marketplace of electricity providers be established and (2) prohibiting the investor-owned utilities that presently generate electricity for over 90 percent of Florida households from continuing to perform that historic role and participating in the new marketplace. Creating a consumer’s “right to choose” among electricity providers and prohibiting Florida’s major existing electricity producers from participating in the new marketplace are two distinct subjects that have been improperly logrolled into a single proposed amendment.
The multiplicity of subjects presented by the Proposed Amendment is also seen in how the amendment substantially alters or performs the functions of multiple branches of government. The Proposed Amendment forces the Legislature to craft an entirely new legislative scheme for energy production, abandons the comprehensive administrative scheme adopted by the Public Service Commission with respect to electric utilities, and selects a particular form of electricity producer to exclude from participation in the new market for electricity producers: investor-owned utilities. The Proposed Amendment also grants any Florida citizen standing to seek judicial relief that forces the Legislature to comply with the amendment’s language. Such effects on multiple branches of government also render the Proposed Amendment invalid under Article XI, section 3, of the Florida Constitution.
The Proposed Amendment is a wolf that comes as a sheep, as the Proposed Amendment’s title and ballot summary will mislead voters regarding the Proposed Amendment and its effects. Whereas the title and summary suggest that the current market for electricity provision will expand, the market will in fact contract in at least one extraordinary manner: most Floridians’ current source of electricity—their region’s investor-owned utility—will be excluded from the marketplace of electricity producers, and investor-owned utilities will in effect be required to divest themselves of all power generation facilities.
Simply put, if you like your current electricity producer, you cannot keep it, but neither the title nor the ballot summary informs voters of that fundamental change, which is by no means the “choice” that reasonable voters would expect from the Proposed Amendment’s title and summary. The uncertainties that would follow the Proposed Amendment’s approval could have significant impacts on property markets, local taxing districts, and, of course, utility costs. Florida voters should not be misled into voting for fundamental changes to the state’s energy system, and risking significant consequences, on a false promise of “choice.”
Read their full legal brief filed with the Florida Supreme Court here.