Senators move forward with solar amendment

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A proposal (SB 90) to carry out a renewable-energy tax break that voters approved in the August primary election cleared its first Senate committee on Tuesday.

The Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee unanimously backed the bill to enact Amendment 4, which lawmakers put before voters to extend a residential renewable-energy tax break to commercial and industrial properties.

Bill sponsor Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said the proposal is a "great opportunity for expanding solar in the Sunshine State."

Questions have been raised by the Florida Association of Counties about the amendment's impact on revenues in rural and mid-sized counties.

However, DeSoto County Administrator Mandy Hines said she is confident details to help rural counties can be worked out with Brandes.

The constitutional amendment, which had bipartisan support, was placed on the primary ballot in part to avoid confusion with a controversial solar-energy initiative that failed in the November general election.

Under Brandes' proposal, the tax exemptions in Amendment 4 would begin in 2018 and last for 20 years.

Voters approved a similar exemption for residential property owners in 2008, with the measure taking effect in 2014.

Amendment 4 also has an element to help residential property owners, as it would exempt all renewable-energy equipment from state tangible personal property taxes.