tampabay.com

House unanimously approves energy bill

By JANET ZINK
Published April 26, 2007


TALLAHASSEE - The Florida House unanimously passed an energy bill Wednesday that would provide sales tax exemptions for the purchase of hybrid vehicles and require state and local governments to construct energy-efficient buildings.

"It's a huge step in the right direction," said Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg. "Could we go further? Absolutely. And I certainly hope we'll go further next year."

Environmental and clean energy advocates applauded the measure.

"Florida is really way, way, way behind," said Susan Glickman, a consultant for the National Resources Defense Council and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. "This is a good start."

Glickman attributes the increased interest in energy issues to Gov. Charlie Crist, who has advocated investing in research on global warming.

Crist, who has asked for an energy audit of the Governor's Mansion, last week met with Sheryl Crow during her "stop global warming" concert tour.

Most legislators, though, frame the discussion in terms of rising gas prices and reducing dependence on foreign oil.

The Senate is working on an energy bill, but disagreement between Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, and Michael Bennett, R-Bradenton, has stalled it. Constantine crafted legislation that closely mirrors the House proposal, but Bennett said the House bill, which comes with a $73-million price tag, "asks for the sky."

But in Constantine's mind, a bigger sticking point is Bennett's desire to create a private corporation to administer the state's energy programs.

"I think it should stay in the public realm," Constantine said.

On Tuesday, the Senate bills were combined and stripped down to include only a two-week tax holiday for the purchase of energy-efficient appliances, the only provision the two senators could agree on.

The sponsor of the House bill, Rep. Bob Allen, R-Merritt Island, said he hopes Bennett and Constantine can hash out their differences.

"The governor, the Senate president and the House speaker all want to see an energy proposal for Florida," he said. "Even though we have a tight budget, we've got to move forward."

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or 813 226-3401.

Fast Facts:

 

Details of House energy bill

The state House on Wednesday passed an energy bill that, among other things:

- Creates a sales tax exemption for hybrid vehicles purchased in October.

- Expands a sales tax holiday for energy-efficient appliances from Oct. 1 to Oct. 14.

- Requires that 20 percent of the state's diesel fuel purchases be biodiesel by 2010, requires that school districts reach that goal by 2008.

- Doubles the sales tax exemption to $2-million for distribution of biodiesel and ethanol.

- Requires all city, county and state government buildings to be constructed according to "green building" energy-efficiency standards.

- Establishes rebates for installation of solar energy systems.

- Offers payments to retailers who sell a certain percentage of biofuel.

- Authorizes the state Department of Environmental Protection to catalogue greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

- Authorizes and funds an ethanol plant at the University of Florida.