Voters from Three States Will Consider Energy Related Ballot Measures This November

While our nation’s collective attention has recently been drawn to an especially combative presidential race, voters from three states will also have the opportunity to weigh in on energy-related ballot measures next month. Let’s take a quick look.

Florida Amendment 1

Floridians will find five proposed amendments to the state constitution on their ballots, with the first perhaps having generated the most public attention to date. The proposal would do two things. First, a constitutional right for consumers to own or lease solar equipment on their property would be created. Until now, state law has provided for Floridians to own solar equipment, but whether or not this equipment could be leased from a third party has been unclear. Second, the proposal would charge state and local governments with ensuring that those customers who opt against installing solar equipment are not forced to subsidize the grid access and backup costs for those that do.

Florida requires a 60 percent vote in order for the amendment to pass. A poll released by the Florida Chamber of Commerce in late September suggests that 66 percent of likely voters support the proposed change, while only 16 percent oppose.

Nevada Question 3

 As is the case in most states, electric utilities in Nevada are currently allowed to create monopolies within their geographic service territories. In such instances, a state public service commission exists to regulate the operations and electricity rates of those utilities. The Public Service Commission of Nevada (PUCN) regulates a single public utility within the state: NV Energy. In November, Nevadans will be asked whether they want to maintain this model or if they would prefer to amend their state constitution to deregulate their electricity markets and allow consumers to select their energy providers. Currently, 16 states have deregulated electricity markets of some sort.

This ballot question is the latest development in what has become a contentious debate over the future of net metering within Nevada.  Constitutional amendments must be approved in two successive even-numbered election years. Should Question 3 be approved in this year’s election, it would need to be approved again in 2018. A poll conducted by Suffolk University in late September shows 72 percent support for deregulation with only 12 percent of likely voters in opposition.

Washington Initiative 732

 Appearing on ballots in Washington State this November is an initiative that would create the first statewide carbon tax in the United States. This tax would go into effect in July 2017 at a price of $15 per metric ton of emissions and rise to $25 in July 2018. Thereafter, the tax would increase at a rate of 3.5 percent plus inflation until it reaches $100 per metric ton.

Proponents sought to make the carbon tax scheme revenue-neutral in the sense that any new revenue derived from the new tax would decrease the burden of existing taxes. Specifically, the initiative would lower the state sales tax from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent and the business and occupation tax on manufacturers would be lowered to 0.001 percent. Finally, the initiative would provide a tax credit worth up to $1,500 per year for roughly 460,000 low-income families within the state.

Interestingly, the initiative has received a surprising amount of opposition from groups one might assume would be natural allies of such a proposal. Activist organizations like the Sierra Club and the Washington Environmental Council do not support the initiative, citing fear of revenue shortfalls that may come as a result of the proposed reduction in the state sales tax. Another frequent complaint is that revenue derived from the carbon tax would not be directed toward investments in renewable energy technology.

Voters appear to be fairly divided on whether or not they support the proposal. A KOMO News/Strategies 360 poll from earlier this month found that 42 percent of likely voters support Initiative 732 with 37 percent expressing opposition. Twenty-one percent, however, remain undecided.

In Depth: Energy

It is difficult – and perhaps even impossible – to overstate the relationship between readily available access to safe, affordable and reliable energy and individual prosperity and economic wellbeing. This is because energy is an input to virtually everything we produce, consume and enjoy in society. Think for a minute…

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