One more step: Florida bill passes Senate – now on to governor’s desk

The Sunshine State – after struggling for so many years to become a viable solar market – is tantalizingly close to creating conditions that could spur a commercial solar boom in the state.

For the second time in a week, the Florida Senate passed Senate Bill (SB) 90, legislation designed to implement Amendment 4, a constitutional amendment that would exempt businesses from property-tax increases if they install solar. The measure went before the voters last August and was passed overwhelmingly, with 73% in favor and only 27% opposed.

Despite the overwhelming voter support, however, it has taken 10 months of arm-twisting, bill rewriting and hard negotiations to implement the amendment through legislation. Now the legislative part of the battle is complete after the House’s unanimous approval on Wednesday and the Senate’s approval yesterday.

All that remains is the signature of Gov. Rick Scott for the tax exemption to become law. Scott has seven days to take action if the legislature stays in session or 15 days if the legislature adjourns. If he signs the bill, the new law will extend to businesses a right residential solar installations have long had

Seeing victory so close, solar advocates congratulated the legislature and urged Scott to sign the bill quickly.

“Last August, Florida voters called for solar progress in one of the most popular amendments in the Sunshine State’s history,” said Scott Thomasson, southeast director at Vote Solar. “Now, it’s up to Governor Rick Scott to honor the voters’ overwhelming support for solar development and deliver on the promise of more jobs and energy choices across Florida.”

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 Florida legislature took a historic step forward today to expand solar across the state while recognizing Floridians’ desire for more choice over their energy options,” said Tom Kimbis, executive vice president for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “The bill includes strong protections and increased transparency for consumers, helping ensure they fully understand solar transactions.”

“Consumer protection is both the right thing to do and critical to the success of the industry, and we congratulate the Florida legislature for advancing these protections without creating burdensome red tape for small businesses,” Kimbis said. “SEIA applauds the leadership of Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues and Senator Jeff Brandes in working to pass this legislation. And we urge Governor Scott to sign the bill into law to give Florida citizens the energy choices that they overwhelmingly voted in favor of last year.”.”