Sunday, December 4, 2016

Five States Put Energy and Environmental Issues on the Ballot

From banning plastic bags to regulating solar power, states across the country asked voters to make important decisions on energy and the environment.

Last week, a handful of states asked voters several questions that relate to energy and the environment. These questions ranged from local concerns, like state park funding, to laws addressing global climate change through carbon taxes and regulations on sustainable energy.

Here’s how ballot measures shook out in five states.

1. Florida Makes Decisions on Solar Power Regulation
This year, Floridians decided that equipment used to harness renewable energy would be tax exempt. This means that the expensive equipment will not add to property taxes. In November the voters decided that the right to own the equipment and produce this energy would be protected only by existing state statutes, not by the constitution.

Florida mayors have been working for a while to elevate environmental issues such as climate change and sea level rise to the state and national level. Finally, in August, Florida voters approved Amendment 4, which provided tax exemptions for renewable energy equipment.

Opponents like Stop Playing Favorites argued that the amendment was unfair, favoring certain industries over others. However, the amendment received broad support; about 73% of voters voted in favor, much more than the 60% minimum required for the amendment to pass. Supporters say that this new constitutional amendment will encourage investment in solar technology and help Florida take advantage of its renewable potential.

The discussion over solar energy regulation continued on 8 November with Amendment 1, which failed to pass. The amendment would have added to the state’s constitution the right to own and lease solar energy equipment for personal use and would have created regulations to ensure that those who do not produce solar energy do not have to help subsidize it. Utility companies and Consumers for Smart Solar supported the amendment, claiming it would have protected those who didn’t choose solar energy and helped guard against scams.

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