The Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative’s Power to Save the Indian River Lagoon

Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative can help save our Indian River Lagoon. (Photo Jenny Flaugh)
The Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, Amendment 1, is more than just hope. It will help save our Indian River Lagoon. (Photo Jenny Flaugh, St Lucie River sunset.)

Amendment 1, the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment is the voice of generations of people, people who have been diligently working to restore and protect the natural water and land resources of Florida. These same people were, in essence, robbed by their government. The Land Acquisition Trust Fund, Florida’s conservationists, ethical business people, and protectionists, are not going to allow this to happen again.

Over many years, governors and legislative bodies have taken or “swept” trust fund money from multiple interests. This was done by the Bush administration and more recently by the Scott administration. Through out the years, Democrats have done it too. It is a long standing, accepted way of  “ruling.”  And yes, there are a hundred “good” reasons to do so, if one is a politician,  like the financial crisis of 2008, and the fall out afterwards.

Nonetheless, it is wrong. Immoral. Governments should not  call the hard collected, established, monies of special interest groups TRUST funds if they are legally allowed to take them when times get tough. This mode of operandus  takes advantage of and confuses a public that has purposely been uninformed by its leaders. It simply is not good government.

This is where Amendment 1 comes in. To restore a program for lands and now waters in our state, one that cannot be taken away.

On April 16th at 2pm, at Indian Riverside Park, supporters of the constitutional amendment,  #1, FLORIDA WATER & AND LAND CONSERVATION INITIATIVE (2014) will hold an educational forum to educate on why it is critical  that we all vote yes on this amendment in November.

I have provided the formal wording below so you can read the document, but I will summarize why it is a good thing:

1. First, it does not allow future monies to be commingled with the General Revenue Fund of the state. (taken/stolen/redirected by the state legislature)

2. Second, it supports a committee that has the ability to use funds collected from 33% of documentary tax stamps (real estate charges the state collects form homebuyers) to purchase lands across the state including the Everglades Agriculture Area, (EAA) the Everglades Protection Area, (EPA),  water areas, conservation easements, wetlands, forests, fish/wildlife habitat/management areas, drinking water lands, lands protecting water quality and and quantity for springs, rivers, streams, spring sheds, recharge areas for groundwater/aquifers, recreational lands, open spaces, rural landscapes, farm and ranches, and historic or geologic sites.

Here is the legal language:

SECTION 28. Land Acquisition Trust Fund. —

a) Effective on July 1 of the year following passage of this amendment by the voters, and for a period of 20 years after that effective date, the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall receive no less than 33 percent of net revenues derived from the existing excise tax on documents, as defined in the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012, as amended from time to time, or any successor or replacement tax, after the Department of Revenue first deducts a service charge to pay the costs of the collection and enforcement of the excise tax on documents.
b) Funds in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall be expended only for the following purposes:
1) As provided by law, to finance or refinance: the acquisition and improvement of land, water areas, and related property interests, including conservation easements, and resources for conservation lands including wetlands, forests, and fish and wildlife habitat; wildlife management areas; lands that protect water resources and drinking water sources, including lands protecting the water quality and quantity of rivers, lakes, streams, springsheds, and lands providing recharge for groundwater and aquifer systems; lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area and the Everglades Protection Area, as defined in Article II, Section 7(b); beaches and shores; outdoor recreation lands, including recreational trails, parks, and urban open space; rural landscapes; working farms and ranches; historic or geologic sites; together with management, restoration of natural systems, and the enhancement of public access or recreational enjoyment of conservation lands.
2) To pay the debt service on bonds issued pursuant to Article VII, Section 11(e).
c) The moneys deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, as defined by the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012, shall not be or become commingled with the General Revenue Fund of the state.

The local forum on April 16th is sponsored by the Treasured Lands Foundation and the Martin County Taxpayers Association, the event features a host of elected officials and environmental experts, including U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy; Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida; Mark Perry, executive director of Florida Oceanographic Society; Sarah Heard, chair of the Martin County Commission; Troy McDonald, mayor of Stuart; Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, commissioner of Sewall’s Point; Eve Samples, Stuart News columnist; John Nelson, president of the Martin County Audubon Society and Maggy Hurchalla, leading environmentalist.

I hope this blog has been helpful as sometimes all this can be convoluted and confusing.

I encourage you to attend the forum on April 16th as I will be speaking along with others. More important, in November, please vote for Amendment 1, the Florida Water and Land Legacy.

This amendment is the voice of the people and  is truly tailor made to, over time, help our ailing St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.

Reference links:

Official site, VOTE YES ON 1: (http://voteyeson1fl.org/sections/page/about)

General information: (http://ballotpedia.org/Florida_Water_and_Land_Conservation_Initiative,_Amendment_1_(2014))

Article, 10 News Tampa Bay,  2011, “Florida’s Sweeping of Trust Funds:” (http://archive.wtsp.com/news/florida/article/194649/19/Florida-sweeps-trust-funds?odyssey=mod)

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