Screven Watson is a former Executive Director of the Florida Democratic Party with an extensive background in public policy at the state and local levels for over two decades. Before opening his own practice, Watson served as Chief Cabinet Aide for Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford where he helped to oversee Department of Highway Safety, FDLE, Division of State Lands, Marine Fisheries and many other state agencies and divisions.
Screven Watson is also a coalition member of Consumers for Smart Solar – the campaign created to get Floridians to pass Amendment 1 on the 2016 ballot. It was funded to the tune of $20 million dollars by the monopoly utility companies in Florida: NextEra Energy’s Florida Power and Light, Duke Energy, Southern Company’s Gulf Power, and Tampa Electric. In addition to the utility money, the remaining millions of dollars have mainly come from organizations with close ties to utility and fossil fuel companies, such as the National Black Chamber of Commerce and 60 Plus Association.
Screven Watson, is a registered lobbyist for the Florida Professional Firefighters, which surprised many in Florida by lending its endorsement of Amendment 1 in October 2016.
But news reports, specifically Eric Glasser of 10 News WTSP, a St. Petersburg CBS affiliate, and Greg Fox for WESH 2, an Orange County NBC affiliate, found that firefighters in Florida were not endorsing Amendment 1. The reporters interviewed local firefighters and found that they all said they take no position. Scott Egan, Secretary of Orange County Firefighters, said, “We should not be supporting or opposing an amendment that has little or nothing to do with us.”
Also revealed was that according to the Florida Division of Elections data, Consumers for Smart Solar paid Watson $113,163 since August of 2015 for communications consulting and travel.
The Florida Professional Firefighters reversed their endorsement days before the election, saying:
“As a member driven organization, our leadership has communicated with hundreds, if not thousands, of firefighters over the last few weeks regarding their concerns with Amendment 1 and the real firefighter safety issues related to solar energy systems. It is clear to the elected Executive Board of this organization that our membership would prefer to pursue any future firefighter safety regulations related to the still developing alternative energy industry through legislative or rulemaking action, as opposed to a constitutional amendment that many believe to be misleading.”
On election day in 2016, Consumers for Smart Solar’s Amendment 1 failed to reach the necessary 60% of the vote in order to pass. Polls showed that in September, 73% of voters were planning to vote ‘yes’ on Amendment 1. The final total was 4.5 million for ‘yes’ and 4.4 million for ‘no’ or 51%-49%. That’s a 22% drop in support over several weeks.
The defeat was a major blow to the state’s largest investor-owned utilities.