Democrat first to try eliminating nuclear cost recovery this session

A Tallahassee lawmaker is taking on one major campaign issue from the state’s mid-term elections right away, proposing a bill that would eliminate the ability of utility companies like Duke Energy Corp. to collect money for its failed nuclear plant projects.

State Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, filed H.B. 4001 last Friday. If passed, it would repeal the nuclear cost recovery statute that has put Duke in line to collect more than $3.2 billion from customers through a $3.45 monthly surcharge. It’s supposed to pay for the now-closed Crystal River nuclear facility, as well as a cancelled nuclear power plant in Levy County.

The nuclear cost recovery statute was one of the big issues that affected the governor’s race, as well as some local races, including the one state Rep. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, eventually won. Burgess was forced to defend a $1,000 direct donation from Duke during an October candidate forum, as well as $2,000 of indirect support from Duke through the Republican Party of Florida.

Burgess at the time said that while he accepted money from Duke, he’s not beholden to them.

“The answer is very simple: nobody can buy my vote,” Burgess said at the time. “I have been very fortunate to receive a lot of local support, and I have to be able to lay down my head at night. When I make a decision, it’s for every single person in this room.”

The very brief H.B. 4001 would simply repeal the state statute that would allow utility companies to recover money from customers for the “siting, design, licensing and construction of nuclear and integrated gasification combined cycle power plants.” If passed and approved by the governor, such a bill could force Duke to stop collecting the monthly recovery fee from its customers beginning next July.

Rehwinkel Vasilinda didn’t stop there in high-profile bills, however. She also filed H.B. 4003, which would eliminate the state’s death penalty for capital crimes. Democrats have typically called for the repeal of death penalties in states, but a bill like this likely would not make it very far in the Republican-controlled legislature, or the Republican governor.

Florida has executed eight people this year, slightly more than the seven who were put to death in 2013. Gov. Rick Scott has signed 20 death warrants during his four years in office, compared to just five under Charlie Crist before him. That doesn’t include a warrant Scott signed Monday for Johnny Shane Kormondy, who was convicted for the 1993 murder of Gary McAdams, and for repeatedly raping McAdams’ wife.

Kormondy is scheduled for execution Jan. 15.

Gov. Jeb Bush put 21 people to death over an eight-year period, while Gov. Lawton Chiles executed 18 in his two terms in office.

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