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Cerabino: Pat Boone singing the tune of Florida’s big utilities

I got a phone call from Pat Boone.

Yes, that Pat Boone. I know this because he said he was “that Pat Boone.”

I would like to take a brief timeout to inform my younger readers that Pat Boone is a singer who became a sensation during the Eisenhower Administration. The first term of the Eisenhower Administration.

Boone made his bones taking songs first recorded by black singers and making them white. So, for example, Fats Domino wrote and recorded “Ain’t That a Shame” in 1955, and then Boone covered it and made it a hit again.

Pat Boone was very popular. And he also wore lots of white clothing for a guy who wasn’t playing tennis.

But I didn’t know he was still alive until I got a robocall from him last week.

I had only seen Boone once, and it was on a sweltering day in Houston in the summer of 1992. He wasn’t singing that day. He was standing on a stage with televangelist Pat Robertson, conservative firebrand Phyllis Schlafly, and then-Vice President Dan Quayle.

It was something called a “God and Country Rally” near the Republican National Convention that year, and it was the only event I ever attended that included a 3-inch-long plastic fetus as a complimentary tchotchke.

“There are now only divine solutions to our problems,” Boone said on that day.

That was 24 years ago. So it was quite a surprise to hear his voice again last week on my phone answering machine, this time offering up a more worldly solution to Florida’s problems.

He wanted me to vote for Amendment 1. That’s the solar amendment on next month’s ballot called the “Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice.”

It sounds benign. A casual reading might give you the idea that Amendment 1 grants Floridians new rights to install solar panels on their homes.

“This amendment establishes a right under Florida’s constitution for consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use,” the ballot language begins.

But this is just a head fake. Floridians already have that right. You have to keep reading to see what this is all about.

“State and local governments shall retain their abilities to protect consumer rights and public health, safety and welfare, and to ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do,” it continues.

This language effectively kills subsidies for solar panel installations, the thing that makes them affordable. The state’s power companies, wanting to keep their monopoly in place, have complained that residential rooftop solar will make those Floridians who do not have solar panels left to pay a higher share of the cost of maintaining the electrical grid.

Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, Tampa Electric Co and Golf Power Co., paid more than $12 million to support Amendment 1 as an obstacle to Floridians looking to expand solar power in the Sunshine State.

They’re counting on inattentive voters who have no idea what the language of this ballot amendment really means, language that Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente called “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

So why is this a concern for Pat Boone, an 82-year-old singer living in Beverly Hills, California?

It’s a mystery until Boone announced that he was calling on behalf of the 60 Plus Association.

The 60 Plus Association is a hyper-political version of the American Association of Retired Persons. The 60-Plus Association is funded, in part, by big-energy interests, and has lobbied for more off-shore drilling, the Keystone pipeline, and the loosening of renewable energy standards.

“60 Plus Association is a front group funded by the Koch Brothers that works to recruit senior citizens to support the organization’s supposed ‘free market’ ideology,” wrote the Energy and Policy Institute, a clean-energy think tank. “60 Plus has supported the fossil fuel-backed effort to weaken clean energy policies across the country.”

Now it makes sense. Pat Boone is still recording covers.

And to quote the words he borrowed from Fats Domino: Ain’t that a shame.

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