Florida’s House jumps on the solar bandwagon, Senate next?

Wow, that took far longer than it should have, didn’t it?

To catch everyone up, Florida voters amended their constitution last August to exempt businesses that install solar from paying increased property taxes as a result. The measure passed overwhelmingly, with 73% in favor and only 27% opposed.

Simple, right? The voters want it, so the legislature is now required by law to implement it, right?

Well, yesterday – 10 months after the voters spoke loudly and clearly – the Florida House of Representatives finally approved Senate Bill 90, unanimously, following its approval by the Senate on May 1. But even with the overwhelming support in both houses of the legislature, the process isn’t quite done yet.

The Senate needs to have one more vote, which could come as early as today, to pass a reconciled bill. Unfortunately, a quick look at the bills that will be considered by the Senate today does not list SB 90 as one.

If it passes the Senate again (as it is expected to do), then Gov. Rick Scott can either sign the legislation into law or veto it. If the legislature stays in session, Scott has seven days to take action. If the legislature adjourns before it reaches Scott’s desk, he has 15 days to take action.

Residential solar installations have long had the property-tax exemption, so extending the benefits to businesses seemed like a no brainer – and clearly the voters agreed. Instead of being implemented immediately, however, the legislature had to pass a law to extend the exemption, and the cat herding process of getting the votes for the legislation took longer than it takes a baby to be born.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that the legislation is not perfect, solar advocates enthusiastically praised the House for its actions yesterday.

“We applaud Florida lawmakers for implementing this important constitutional amendment in the closing days of the legislative session,” said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and board member of Floridians for Solar Choice. “The importance of moving this forward cannot be overstated: with lower taxes for homeowners and businesses, solar energy development will increase allowing Floridians to lock in energy savings, create jobs, spur economic development and bring much-needed diversity to the state’s energy mix.”

According to The Solar Foundation’s 2016 National Solar Jobs Census, Florida currently supports 8,260 jobs, including 3,933 jobs in installation. The state has also added 1,700 jobs since 2015.

“The voices of Florida voters have been heard,” said Pamela Goodman, President of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “With the implementation of Amendment 4, approved by 73% of voters last August, voters have helped to shape our energy policy in a way that the Sunshine State can be proud of.”