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Expert warns of upcoming threats to democracy across the nation; Judge in Trump documents case rejects suggestions to step aside; NC businesses fear effects of 'bathroom bill'; Report says restaurants allow abuse, disease risk at MD animal farms.

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A congresswoman celebrates Biden protections for mixed status families, Louisiana's Ten Commandments law faces an inevitable legal challenge, and a senator moves to repeal the strict 19th century anti-obscenity and anti-abortion Comstock Act.

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Rural educators say they need support to teach kids social issues, rural businesses can suffer when dollar stores come to town, prairie states like South Dakota are getting help to protect grasslands and a Minnesota town claims the oldest rural Pride Festival.

Report: Florida's Utility Companies Hold Power Over Regulators

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Thursday, May 17, 2018   

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The power generated by Florida's four largest utilities goes far beyond just turning your lights on, according to a new report by a watchdog group that found the companies hold significant power over those that are supposed to regulate them.

The report by Integrity Florida and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy showed a mix of campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures by Florida's big power companies totaling more than $43 million during the 2014 and 2016 election cycles alone. Integrity Florida research director Ben Wilcox said their study shows the companies have long been buying their power and wielding their influence to maintain that power.

"We found that the energy companies spent more than twice as much in the most recent four-year period than in the previous 10-year period documented in the original 2014 Power Play report,” Wilcox said.

The report also showed that the companies poured in $20 million to advance a constitutional amendment that would have limited competition in the solar energy market, but the effort failed to pass. In response to the report, Duke Energy Florida issued a statement saying their contributions are made in accordance with campaign finance laws.

Wilcox said the companies, which also include Florida Power and Light, TECO Energy and Gulf Power, have found ways to bypass restrictions on using customer dollars to lobby.

"Regulators are allowing them to bypass that ban, paying dues to trade groups like the Edison Electric Institute and other associations that lobby on their behalf,” he said.

The report noted the power companies employ around 100 lobbyists, compared with the 160 members of the Legislature. Integrity Florida and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy are calling for reforms including prohibiting campaign contributions by regulated utilities to state candidates and political committees, requiring detailed lobbyist compensation reporting and independence of the Florida Public Service Commission, which regulates the industry.


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