Florida “Gutting” Energy Efficiency Goals, Terminating Solar Power Rebates

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Florida’s state regulators have approved the previously put forward proposals to completely gut the state’s energy efficiency goals and to end its solar rebate programs by the end of 2015, according to recent reports.

The approval means that the state’s major, investor-owned utility companies have more or less gotten exactly what they wanted — energy efficiency goals will be cut by over 90%, and the state will cease supporting rooftop solar at all.

Solar Florida image by Shutterstock

The decision came, reportedly, after about two hours of debate — with members of the state Public Service Commission voting 3–2 in favor of the proposal that had, ultimately, backing from Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric, and Florida Power & Light.

The two naysayers, Commissioners Lisa Edgar and Julie Brown, stated their disapproval of the drastic altering of the state’s energy policy.

Edgar noted before the vote that “it’s not the direction I want to go in. I am uncomfortable going to the reduced goals. It is a policy and it is a statement, as a state, of what our energy policies are.”

While Brown noted that while there are costs to the programs, they have value: “We have inherent conflicts. We’re supposed to encourage conservation but it must be cost-effective. I think we should be investing in all of it.”


The Tampa Bay Times provides more:

The commissioners did agree to hold workshops on ways to improve solar energy in the Sunshine State after deciding to end current rebate programs administered by the utilities. But that won’t be enough to stave off possible legal challenges to the decision. Environmental groups question whether the PSC might have violated state law with a policy that leaves no energy-efficiency requirements for the utilities.

“It’s completely inconsistent with what the other states are doing,” stated Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which opposed the utility proposals during hearings this summer. “We believe there may have been laws broken today by not setting goals. We as an organization are going to try to find every outlet possible to continue to fight.”

Meanwhile, Florida’s utilities will go into the holidays with their biggest wishes this year, including billions of dollars in new power plants that will come online in the next decade. The PSC, for instance, approved Duke Energy for a $1.5 billion natural gas plant that the utility wanted to replace the shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant that broke during a botched upgrade and maintenance project as well as two coal units the company plans to retire.

The argument used by the utilities to justify the cuts was that the energy efficiency and solar rebate programs weren’t cost-effective (nothing to do with cutting out competition, I’m sure) — as they argue that it’s cheaper for them to produce a kilowatt of electricity than to save it.

But given that many, many other states throughout the country manage to save energy at a cheaper cost than generating it, that argument doesn’t come across as very believable. But then, Florida politics have always been something of a hotbed of corruption and crime — so I’d be surprised if many in the state are all that surprised by the decision.

To my eyes, the situation does just seem to be one of the utilities seeking to hold on to their market by any means available. It seems unlikely that these measures will, over the long-term, have much of an impact on the adoption of rooftop solar in the state, though. Rooftop solar just has too much going for it over the long term. I’d say that you can probably expect to see its growth continue in the state into the foreseeable future, just more slowly or more delayed than it could have with supportive policy.


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Florida Solar Industry Changing Focus

Solar Homes For The Elderly Come To Florida

Pro-Solar Activists In Florida Campaign Against Rick Scott

Image Credit: Solar Florida image by Shutterstock

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

James Ayre has 4830 posts and counting. See all posts by James Ayre

69 thoughts on “Florida “Gutting” Energy Efficiency Goals, Terminating Solar Power Rebates

  • Republicans in Florida are doing everything they can to retard progress in every venue.

    • The Republican Party since at least Regan, has done everything they can to retard competition.

  • As we are seeing in Australia, even with political support the utility dinosaurs can’t win for long against solar energy below socket parity. Expect a “green tea” rebellion, following Georgia.

    • On the other hand, rooftop PV alone isn’t going to change the world at the pace we need. Large scale renewable installations, wind in particular, is currently the cheapest and fastest way of establishing renewable energy.

      • Florida Power is all in favor of grid scale solar in combination with their new gas plants so they can still be in control of the delivery, they just don’t want to have to pay for it.
        For the past four years or so in every customers monthly bill is a request to donate 10-15$/month towards the building of new solar farms, with the claim that it will help to reduce future bills but no verification of how or when. The company is only required to track these “investments in the future” as charitable donations, so it is impossible to find out what is actually being done with the funds.
        The Florida utility companies are all in favor of solar power so long as they can control the supply and bill for it. There have been many attempts over the past ten years to slow or stop the installation of rooftop solar. With two of the commissioners directly beholden to them for their appointments and the third already on their side policies and rules will be changing in the next few years. No matter how inexpensive solar becomes, it will get to be a real hassle to get it installed and connected to the grid in the future.

          • Couldn’t get your link to open, but assume that it follows through with what I was saying. The Florida utilities talk up a good front about wanting to install solar on the grid scale but it isn’t happening because they aren’t willing to do the investments themselves.

          • It shows that renewables account for less than 2% of electricity. Natural gas dominates at over 70% with smaller shares for coal and nuclear.

            All in all, Florida isn’t that horrible – at least coal isn’t as important as it in most other states. But renewable deployment is pathetic.

          • Went and did some reading myself this morning and compared to potential what there is installed and planned is definitely pitiful. One site even said that Florida could produce 15% of the world’s electricity needs.
            One thing that doesn’t make sense to me is the lack of wind potential cited. Especially during the summer when the electric demand is highest the land heating up causes a regular influx of wind up and down both coasts that continues into the evening that would cover the highest demand period. There are plenty of small islands along those coasts also that are unsuitable for tourism use, but I guess infrastructure to get that power to the grid would be an issue.

          • It’s something about Florida. The people that live there perhaps, don’t feel the same connection because they live there through retirement or vacations or something other than being born there. They have a temporary attitude about their own time in Florida, ditto for the energy policy, from what I read here, they don’t have one. Ditto for the Feds. What is their internet access statistics? New Mexico has only 54% of adults with an internet connection. What are they reading today?

          • FL is crawling with the 2 types of citizens that know & care least about clean energy: old people and rednecks

          • I’m 5th generation Floridian. I’m come from the”redneck” culture you are referring to. I can assure you that we care. Most people in my socioeconomic class would love it if they didn’t have $300 a month electric bills. It makes since to us that we utilize the sun. Unfortunately, our politicians are in bed with Duke. Also, solar power is extremely expensive especially to most people in Florida who’s average income is around $30,000 a year. One of my professors was just telling us she did an estimate for solar on her house that was close to $20,000. If a college professor Phd can’t afford that, the average citizen defiantly can’t. So judge our politicians, fine, but give us the benefit of a doubt. Please!

          • I’d suggest that you don’t just assume solar is too expensive. Get some data.

            Remember that the federal government not only gives a subsidy to pay for a system, they furnish low interest loans.

            It costs nothing to contact a couple installers and see what a system would cost.

            It may be that costs aren’t low enough yet in Florida but prices continue to come down. By 2016 solar should make sense in all 50 states.

            And remember, when you purchase a solar system you’ve locked in the price of electricity for the next 20+ years. While the power company cost may continue to increase over the years your cost will stay the same until the system is paid off. And then your electricity is about free.

          • I would love to be wrong on this. And you are wrong on the cost of solar. I’ve studied solar & clean energy for 27 years and today, in States that have solar-friendly policies, solar is CHEAPER, primarily thanks to solar leasing, where an installer puts a system on your home for free, they own it and sell you the power it generates for LESS that what Duke (or any utility) charges. Again, no $ out of pocket and your bill is lowered immediately. Solar leasing is blowing up in the ~17 states that support it. Solar leasing is illegal in FL.

        • I think you said it all in the last sentence;
          “connected to the grid”. Once we can buy a 10 or 15 kwh used lith-ion electric car battery for less than $5000 or so, the cheapest electricity will be buying it during the night from the utility and using it during the day from your battery. Here in California you’d pay 11 cents per kw, and save the 25 cents per kw that you pay on average for electricity through the day. You’d be saving over half your electric bill without buying any solar. Now start putting (solar) panels up as you need them, with everything functioning ‘off-grid’ and forget about the senseless, money grabbing policies of the business owned state government. In California, the utility has to pay you the same rate they’d charge you, for any power you supply. If you’re careful, you could buy it at 11 cents and sell it back to them for over 40 cents, net metering. Our front gate and exterior lights are all on a simple $400 off grid system that will do the job for roughly 20 years. Five years so far with only occasional battery checks. Next, we’ll build a pool that will run only six or seven hours during the day, so a solar system can run it, without any batteries and of course, it’s off grid. We changed all the light bulbs to LED a year ago, immediate strong savings there. The last big item is air-conditioning. Our lot is just big enough to support a ground source heat pump, that will AC the house in summer, and heat the pool in winter. It will also cool off the pool in summer.

          • Just something for you to check out,
            “used car battery for less than 5,000$”
            My storage situation is all set for now thanks to a sealed lead acid battery pack that was designed for backup power at a cellphone tower site that a local battery supply company let me get for a very reasonable price to avoid the hassle of shipping to South America.
            Out of curiosity though last winter I checked with a friend that manages a well known name auto supply store about the prices of car battery packs. It would have to have been sold to me with the deception to the supplier that it was for use in a car. However used and new Leaf batteries were available with various degrees of warranty from a cost of 3500-5800$. We couldn’t figure out just how much of the control hardware/circuitry came with it or needed to be transferred from the old one, so that is a consideration that needs to be taken into account.
            As for setting up storage to buy power from the utility at a low price and sell back at a higher one, I have read that they are rather strict on approving systems that include storage to make sure that that doesn’t happen, but maybe you could get away with it.
            But as for going offgrid, by my pseudonym, you might see that I am all for it. If you have or can acquire the knowledge and skills to set up and manage your own system it will lead to tremendous savings. We are heading into our ninth year of doing so and with all the comforts of a grid tied home just managing our supply and usage with the various technologies available have spent a lot less than what our utility bills would have been through that same time period. What got me started was the ridiculous price and conditions that the utility wanted before even starting to charge me a monthly bill. Our total system and upgrades through the years haven’t even cost what that original investment to be grid tied would have cost.
            So as long as the sun continues to shine and the winds continue to blow, I will continue to be Offgridman.

          • You speak of savings compared to buying all power from the grid and I certainly believe that. But are you really cheaper off now than you would have been with a smaller solar array, a heat pump and a grid connection?

            The PV could cut your peak demand to almost zero, thereby eliminating the biggest part of an average electricity bill. Cheap off-peak power wouldn’t cost that much.

            I still haven’t seen a convincing calculation that show that going off-grid entirely makes financial sense. Of course, there’s more than just cash involved: you can’t put a price on knowing you are green and independent if you value those things (I for one value being green, but I’m not too excited about independence).

          • Definitely sure about the savings as compared to what we used to spend, our electric bills for my workshop/studio and our home used to run 150 – 250$/month depending upon the time of year nine years ago.
            Now some of the savings come from consolidating onto a single property where I built my retirement home and new studio, but most of it was due to prior experience as an electrician so it was possible to design and build the system on my own. Also getting wire and junction boxes from the scrap yard, and building my own racks contributed, along with wheeling and dealing on all of the purchases beginning with panels and wind turbine on through the high efficiency appliances and batteries.
            However none of what we have purchased would have gone over the initial cost of 30-40,000$ just to get grid fed power in here from my neighbors property. The variability in cost is because even after I cut down all of the trees and marked out the exact path for the buried feed the utility refused to give me an exact cost and just said well it is going to cost at least this much $$$. So dig the ditch and we will be back within 60 days to inspect, and be back within 90 days after that to lay the wire. So I was expected to keep a four foot deep ditch close to 500 feet long cleaned out and ready for the wire for up to five months.
            This really gave me the impression that they did not want my patronage for their services.
            As to a smaller amount of panels, with the costs what they were 8 years ago we have been getting by with 2.7 Kw in panels and a 2 Kw wind turbine. With the way prices have dropped over the past few years I am planning on adding a couple of Kw of straight east and west facing panels next year to spread our collection time during the winters.

        • Even in “socialist” Europe we have managed to unbundle our utilities and allow competition on the electricity market. That the republican party does not pursue the unbundling of utilities shows that they are not the party of free markets, but the party of vested interests.

          • “party of vested interests”
            Yes it is quite obvious to anyone that makes even a meager attempt to ‘follow the money’ as we say.
            My current hope is that in ’16 we will get the larger turnout of voters that usually happens for presidential elections, and by that time have them well enough informed to vote for the people that will actually do what the majority of us want. Ie: do something about changing our energy production to more renewable sources, and work towards mitigating our causes of climate change, and get rid of the ‘good old boy’ nnetwork that is controlled by the fossil fuel interests.
            Doing what I can to inform family, friends, and neighbors of the penalties if we don’t make these necessary (and common sense) changes, and remind them of the power we have if we will all just take the time to go vote.

      • German solar is largely roof-top, is it not?

        The state or states in Australia that have high solar penetration are mostly roof-top.

        PV alone won’t do the job but don’t undersell it. Billions of people can figure out how to install solar with simple tools. Few of us will ever stand a wind turbine.

        • According to Fraunhofer (link, page 36): 13% of German solar capacity in December 2012 came from installations under 10kw (= residential), 43% from 10 kw – 100kw (= commercial).

          • But those commercial installations were still rooftop panels, opposed to concentrated solar collectors.

      • Larmion, I’d almost agree with you if you’d written the opposite of what you did. Here in Australia rooftop solar provides electricity at a lower cost than coal, gas, or any other utility scale generating capacity. It is the only new renewable generating capacity that is competitive with our existing coal plants. New wind turbines are cheaper than new coal plants, but not one that’s already been built. The cheapest utility scale solar is curretly 6 US cents a kilowatt-hour in Dubai. In Australia the average daytime wholesale electricity is around 3 US cents, and so utility scale solar is unable to beat current generators on cost. Utlity scale solar is also faced with the problem that the more that is built the lower daytime electricity prices go which reduces the incentive to build more utility scale solar. Rooftop solar is much more resistant to this effect as here it still pays for itself even if no payment is received for electricity exported to the grid. Without government intervention rooftop solar appears to be currently essential for driving existing coal generators out of business.

      • Not when you factor in a longer time frame for implementing solar. Roof top installs are done because it’s the obvious place on some one’s lot to put lots of panels, but now we’re seeing more efficient panels that take up less space, and can even be pole mounted and able to track the sun for more efficiency and less space. Distributed power generation and use is the future. Even solar, if done large scale, plays into the aging strategies of the utility companies. We’re trying to cut the length of transmission lines to the shortest possible.

    • I agree James. The solar industry is BOOMING in the ~16 states that have solar-friendly policies. The situation is FL is a dam that will ultimately burst once the public realizes that Rethuglicans are obstructing the fastest growing industry on earth (for pure greed; let future generations be damned) and the jobs & economic activity that come along with it! And while I revile all Republicans and Tea Party lunatics & racists, I do give a lot of credit to the Tea Party Patriots who helped GA get some decent policy in place.

  • There need to be an ad campaign, “Florida is no longer the Sunshine State. Florida is the coal black state”. “Dark grey clouds and acid rain.”

    • More like the gas state: http://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=FL#tabs-4

      And gas is associated with neither acid rain nor dark grey clouds (and for all its other flaws, a modern coal station also don’t cause acid rain anymore. SO2, unlike most other pollutants from coal, can be captured cheaply and efficiently).

      • 80% of Florida’s Energy comes from Coal, and they are retiring two, I assume 30% efficient coal plants and a non-working nuclear plant. Coal is a LOT harder to cycle then NG, which I would like to assume is a real technical issue causing them to fight solar. IE the utilities are not prepared to do the required frequency regulation, which doesn’t say a lot for their management either.

        • The EIA states that only 20% of Florida’s energy comes from coal (see my link). You’ll forgive me for trusting them more than an unsourced post.

          • In otherwords, the poor management (not a technical issue) is relying on the government to keep them in business. You are correct 21% from coal, and 62% from natural gas. Although more has already been produced from coal this year then last. 83% is produced from fossil fuels, even though they are supposedly the “sunshine” state.

          • No argument there. However, your initial claim (80% of Florida’s power comes from coal) was wrong. By extension, that also makes your comments on acid rain and clouds wrong

            83% fossil fuels seems to be rather average for the US as a whole. Some states do much better, but mostly thanks to decades old hydro plants.

            Given the low share of coal, I’d in fact wager that Florida’s emissions per kWh are at or below average for the US (a low benchmark, but at least it’s something).

          • They are ranked the 5th highest for CO2 emissions.

          • And fourth in population. CO2 emissions per capita are 11th from the bottom of all 50 states. They look even better compared to the two states the border, Georgia (21st from bottom) and Alabama (13th from the top).
            Of course much of that is due to population density of South Florida, but either way Floridians aren’t energy gluttons, which I’m sure angers the hell out of the fossil fuel co’s and their utility industry lackies hence the reason for this crap from the Florida PSC.

          • It would tick them off even more, if you all installed solar and started to go offgrid. Even “grid assist” would be useful, but you need some sort of storage.

          • For the record I live in Wisconsin which just went through it’s own screwing over at the hand of the Wisconsin ‘Service’ Commission and yes installing solar angers the hell out of them too. It’s appaling and pathetic to think the ‘Sunshine’ state with so much solar insolation per year has to put up with these heavily entrenched troglodytes!

          • The only thing you can do to fight back is to install solar, but island it using a grid assist inverter (which only pulls from the grid if you need it.) then they can get pissed off, but really can’t do anything about it.

          • The issue I don’t get is why -aren’t- Tea Partiers all over renewables. If you do off-grid with say solar, and have enough for an EV, then you avoid taxes on all of it, plus the government is willing to help you do it. Fewer tax dollars means a smaller government. It allows them some freedoms they so desparatly crave. Plus freedom from the corporate infrastructures. I don’t get why they aren’t eating this up.

          • You mean the people walking around waving signs like the one below?

            Apparently some of them are not the brightest bulbs on the Festivas Pole.

          • Most “T” Partiers get their marching orders (and talking points) from FAUX “News”. They are definitely NOT the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree

          • Well, there’s the Green Tea Coalition in Georgia.

          • Storage is coming soon and it will change everything! We’ll finally be able to keep the oil & coal in the ground!

          • I can’t help but be skeptical about FL being so low per capita on CO2 emissions since it’s so bloody hot here and we have to use SO much A/C for so much of the year – what’s your source?

          • The wikipedia link in my comment. Part of the reason is due to population density and the fact that it uses less energy in Florida to cool a conventional house than to heat it during the winter. And the rest of the country uses staggering amounts of energy to keep their houses warm during the winter on top of using A/C during the summer (although using less A/C overall than FL throughout the year).

    • what about inundated state.
      the utilities better start building dikes to keep their customers where they are with new fossil power

      • The utility and all its living customers will be long gone before sea level rises will have a significant impact 🙂

        • In Miami (southern region in particular) it is already having an impact after storm surges and very high tides. They are already having to compensate with changes to the storm drain and fresh water supply systems.
          They are already having to deal with the changes from climate change, it is not a far future scenario. Of course getting the state government to recognize this and cooperate in the needed changes isn’t happening.

          • Parts of South Miami are dealing with frequent street flooding.

            They’ve been risen upon.

          • The flooding has nothing to do with sea level rise, it’s a consequence of storms. Of course, the increased frequency of those is a direct consequence of climate change too.

            Sea level rise is not having a significant effect in our lifetimes anywhere. Other effects, especially on weather, most certainly will.

          • “Global warming has raised global sea level about 8″ since 1880”


            The first place one is going to encounter higher seas in their shoes is during storm surges.

            We are already pulling back along the East Coast due to higher sea levels. We’re returning land that was previously used for houses to marsh. We’ve got coastal roads that are experiencing flooding more frequently. The city of South Miami is having to rebuild its utility systems due to salt water intrusion.

          • No, there’s places in Florida that flood with every high tide. Not very many yet, but it’s the “wave of the future”.

  • Having the utility be in charge of reducing electric demand has never been something that sounded like a good plan to me. Let me see, bars are sell to much. Lets put them in charge of reducing how many drinks they sell.

    • In areas where utilities maintain the grid or pay towards it (i.e. pretty much everywhere), they have a strong incentive to keep demand in check. Grid expansion is very expensive and rarely pays for itself if its only used during peak hours as is so often the case.

      The ideal scenario for an established utility is demand just high enough to fully saturate existing infrastructure. Maximum profit with minimal investment.

      • If it is distributed generation, you don’t have to expand the grid. It is poor management that is the cause of them begging the government for help.

    • Maybe something similar to Dram Shop legislation could keep the Utilities from “serving too many drinks to their customers”. How can you make the Utilities liable for adverse effects of generating power from fossil fuels??

  • Well this is what happens when you let Florida Power spend millions of dollars influencing the replacement of two of the commissioners.
    For all the talk of our democratic system its corrupt heart is being exposed way to often in recent years.

    • is being exposed way to often in recent years.

      Hmm, so how is it being exposed, what way? and why is it going to often?

      var to /= 'too';

      • No I meant what was written ‘to often’ as in repeatedly often, not ‘too often’ also often. Sorry if you don’t like my grammar, blame it on the public schools of 40-50 years back.
        As for the examples you requested, let me number the ways…..
        Our top federal court deciding that businesses have to be recognized as people.
        Individuals or businesses being allowed to make unlimited donations to campaign funds.
        The shift in wealth from mainly our middle class to the already ultra wealthy.
        Politicians allowed to commit outright perjury with no penalty.
        The same politicians denying a vast majority consensus of the climate scientists as to what is happening to our environment.
        A political party raising havoc with our economy by not passing a budget just because they don’t approve of the President chosen by the people.
        A large proportion of our population locked away in prisons at great expense rather than the much less expensive mental health and social programs that would allow them to be productive members of society.
        The ongoing militarization of our local police departments with the military’s surplus equipment.
        The ridiculous expense of trying to seal our borders, rather than just registering these immigrants and making them pay taxes like everyone else.
        The plans to reduce our social security and Medicare programs even though the reason they are broke is because our government took their reserve funds
        Back to politicians, all of the ones that vote in opposition to what a majority of what their constituents want, and instead follow the wants of their corporate sponsors, or try to appease a vocal minority.
        Companies being allowed to sell health supplements that kill people with no oversight being allowed by the federal agencies that are supposed to do so.
        Politicians complaining about subsidies for renewable energy industries while trying to maintain the ones for the fossil fuel industries that are ten times higher and have been continued for ten times as long.
        The total mess of our corporate controlled food and pharmaceutical industries.
        Well I could go on citing examples all night long but what would be the use. If you haven’t bothered to make yourself aware by easily available information of the inherent corruption that is portrayed in our political, social, and business systems you won’t believe me anyways.

  • All the sun you need.

  • Renewables should think of new ways to finance in a state like Florida. The state has very high 65+ age population. These folks might be thinking more about health care and taxes than the future of energy and power generation. Florida has the most people in this age range, other than California, but with about half the total population of CA. Demographics is important. Another thing to consider is the baby boomer generation aging out. Even though many were hippies in the 1960s, their views on change and whatnot begin to move towards less planning and more maintaining.


    • That is probably true. If you are 70 years old, you might not even be alive by the time your panels pay for themselves. There are a number of old folks trailer parks. They probably don’t have much insulation in those trailers and old folks get cold and crank the heat too. maybe a portable mounting type system for trailers in trailer parks needs to be looked at. Then they can sell the system separate from the trailer.

  • Hmm. The most reactionary parts of Europe are in the south…..

  • The map of Florida looks like a gun designed for shooting yourself in the foot.

    • Limp member….

  • Theses utilities who are trying desperately to hold onto their market and maintain the same income to which they had become accustomed are making a serious mistake in choosing the NG basket to place their eggs into. They will soon find themselves with a host of ‘investors’ who will be shouting, like Ricky to Lucy, “you got some splainin to do”.

    When the climate bill comes due it’s more than investors who they will be answering to. I’m amazed at how much stupid can be compressed into a small space.

  • Hmmm… I guess Florida’s motto of “The Sunshine State” may need to be dropped as they aren’t doing anything to use the sunshine.

  • There is not a business case on G_d’s green earth to justify these actions. This is BLATANT graft/corruption! Republicans (and the stacked PSC) = pure evil!

  • Lol….seems instead of bailing the water out of their sinking state, they are pumping water in to sink it faster.
    The politics of Floridians, are as stupid as the politics of most southern states.
    ” listen to the lies, and they will guide you”……,
    Gerrymangering, and cheating people of their right to vote, works there.

  • Sick republican crooks

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