Tag Archives: Florida Forever

“Florida, the Land of Enchantment?” Then Re-fund Florida Forever. P46, CRC


Recently, I convinced my husband, Ed, to come up to Tallahassee with me for the “State of the State” reception at the Governor’s mansion.

It was very exciting; however, we had waited in line for almost an hour, to shake hands with the Governor and First Lady, when a secret service man told me we weren’t going to make the cut. The line was cut off one person in front of me!

“You’re kidding? That’s a bummer.” I thought. “Maybe they’ve had enough of my controversial Constitution Revision Commission environmental proposals? Perhaps I’ve been put on the Affiliated Industries of Florida’s blacklist? Just chance? Hmmm. I can handle it, but poor Ed!”

I tried to negotiate with the secret service man. He was not budging.

While I moped, Ed seemed unaffected, rolled his eyes, smiled, and headed for the bar.

I, on the other hand, could not let go. I was determined to have the Governor see me, or for me to see the Governor, so I moved as far to the front of the room as I could.

When I was right up with the crowd surrounding the Governor, I saw an empty chair. I didn’t see any secret service men staring at me, so I sat in the chair. I could see everything!

But, right at that moment the Governor, First Lady, and crew made a quick exit, and I was sitting there in my black dress, and fake fur, trying to look cool, gazing purposely at a book on the side table.

It was beautiful, very old, and entitled,”Florida Land of Enchantment.” Old-fashioned keys covered the historic book’s fading green face. I stared at it thinking about how the mystique of Florida is “what built Florida.” And how that historic mystique was, and remains, built on the enchantment of Florida’s lands.

Well, Ed and I didn’t get to shake hands with the Governor or First Lady, but I got to see this magnificent book and I’ll never forget it.

This Friday, at 11:00 am, my fourth CRC proposal, P46, or Land Acquisition Trust Fund, goes before the CRC Legislative Committee. The goal of P46 is to have a very needed conversation and to clarify language in Article X, Section 28 of Florida’s Constitution (Amendment 1, 2014) and direct the state legislature to deposit no less that one third of the revenue, not to exceed 300 million annually, into the Florida Forever Trust Fund. This money would go specifically to conservation land purchase as prioritized by the long standing and once “always funded” Florida Forever program.

I already know, there are many reasons, and many conspiracy theories, about why the state legislature has stopped funding Florida Forever. And no matter what occurs at the CRC meeting, the proposal will not be self-executing. We cannot force the legislature to spend money a certain way. That is their prerogative, a power that is derived for them alone from the state constitution.

But a strong message can be sent. A directive can be given. And shouldn’t they listen? They should.

How many years has that book been sitting by the table? Governors and legislatures will come and go, but if “Florida, the land of enchantment,” is to remain, we must continue to invest in Florida Forever.

Florida Forever: https://floridadep.gov/lands/environmental-services/content/florida-forever

Legislative Meeting, CRC: http://flcrc.gov/Committees/LE/

“It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature,” Future Florida Forever Promises-Butter or Chiffon? SLR/IRL

My outdoor loving niece Julia Thurlow, Peace River trip, Martin County Bar Association.  Family photo 2009.

If you are like me, sometimes you read the headlines and ask yourself, “what is going on here?” Florida Forever? Amendment 1? Senate Bill 10?  House Bill 761?  And today? Representative Matt Caldwell, probably running to replace Adam Putnam’s cabinet position in the Dept. of Agriculture, (certainly friendly with the wishes of US Sugar Corporation) proposing “more land funding” for Florida Forever? Hmmmmm? What does that mean? Is there a  trap here? What’s the right thing? What’s going on anyway? How does all this work?

In order to try to answer some these questions, one has to take some time and study history….

In 1963, through the will of the people, the Florida Legislature began the Land Acquisition Trust Fund; in 1972 the Florida Legislature passed the Land Conservation Act for Environmentally Endangered Lands; in 1979 there was a major scandal as the Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources was convicted of taking kickbacks from a land acquisition transaction and thus emerged the Conservation and Recreation Lands Program with “broader administration and oversight of land acquisition activity; ” “CARL” as it came to be known, expanded in 1981 with Governor Bob Graham’s “Save Our Rivers” and “Save Our Coasts” programs; all the while the citizens of Florida demanded such;  Governor Bob Martinez continued the tradition by appointing a “Commission on Florida’s Future” that spawned the 1990 “phenomenal success” of the Preservation 2000 Act; the successor to Preservation 2000, through Governors Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush was a name we all know and recognize, “Florida Forever.” 

Florida was on a roll supporting the wishes of the citizens to preserve the state’s natural beauty before it was plowed down for more agriculture  and development. Florida’s population was increasing exponentially…

So…..things are going “well.” The economy was growing. Florida was growing and the monies for land acquisition programs had evolved over the years to “tax the development that was causing a loss of open space in Florida.”  Thus ironically the destruction of the state became the source of funds for conserving  it. (Doc-stamp tax on the deed for real estate transactions ….) So when real estate was selling there were funds, when not there were not…

Fast forward to 2008. Some call it the Financial Crisis, some call it the Great Recession. Any of us who worked and lived through it, called it scary. During this time real estate values fell drastically. My husband and I in Sewall’s Point, Martin County,  lost 40% of the market value of our home almost overnight. In St Lucie County it was as high as 65%.

So even though at this time in 2008 right before/during the giant crash, the state legislature “promised” funding to Florida Forever at former levels, but they did not give it as they couldn’t. So instead they raided trust funds like Florida Forever to “keep the State’s doors open….” and funding for Florida Forever stopped flowing with the drought of Doc Stamp monies.

After a long dry spell, as the economy slowly improved, and people realized things were bad, but that it would not be a repeat of the Great Depression of the late 1920s and 30s, some confidence returned and once again the people of Florida rose up and spoke out to their political leaders about what was important to them.

By 2014, Amendment 1 (Florida Land and Water Legacy) was put on the ballot and eventually the Florida Constitution by a citizens’ initiative with a whopping  75% plus approval calling for 33% of doc stamp money towards land and water conservation. Palm Beach County, the land of the Everglades Agricultural Area and more commissioners gone to jail for land fraud than all the rest, was one of the highest voting blocks. The message was clear. “We are back on our feet, we want to protect Florida, fund land acquisition as before!”

The state legislature did not do this, the numbers go up and down, but never near pre 2008, and never close to 33% of doc stamp money as the intention of the initiative, so now there is a law suit by the Florida Wildlife Federation and others to force implementation thereof.  Continually, the legislature cries “separation of powers” and their right to interpret as “they know best….”

It is understandable that the recession has made us all more mindful, but this doesn’t mean we should forget about the environment, especially the St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon.

Matt Caldwell? Yes, give more money to Florida Forever. But what is really behind your bill?

Joe Negron? He’s the real deal.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite commercials was Chiffon margarine. The message was that Chiffon tasted so much like butter it could even fool Mother Nature. When she found out she was mad and called on her powers with the animals surrounding her saying: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature….”

I say the same.

Stop fooling around state legislature and give us the butter. #SupportJoeNegron #SenateBill10

Chiffon Commercial: It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLrTPrp-fW8

Peace River

 

For a complete history of Florida Land acquisition from DEP please read here:
http://www.dep.state.fl.us/lands/AcqHistory.htm

To see how monies are divided presently under Florida Forever see this DEP link:http://www.dep.state.fl.us/lands/fl_forever.htm

TCPALM, Caldwell/Florida Forever funding altered but “increased…” : http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/indian-river-lagoon/politics/2017/04/24/matt-caldwell-land-conservation-dollars-under-florida-forever/100846576/

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)