Dear Fellow Commissioners, and Citizens of the Great State of Florida:
As many of you know, I firmly believe our quality of life as citizens and our state’s economic vitality greatly relies on the protection and preservation of our environment.
As we begin our important work of examining proposals in committee, I wanted to share additional information about the following five proposals I have sponsored to protect Florida’s natural treasures for future generations.
1) Proposal 23: At the basis of my environmental protection argument, I believe above all Floridians should have a constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment. Read more about this proposal at the following link: https://t.co/JZiYwr0kMf. I also recently authored an OpEd on this topic in TCPalm at the following link: http://bit.ly/2zSqrl9.
2) Proposal 24: I propose an elected “Commissioner of Environmental Protection” who will have supervision regarding matters pertaining to environmental protection that the Department of Environmental Protection and the Water Management Districts are authorized to implement and administer. Read more about this proposal at the following link: https://t.co/D5lEgRFxNe.
3) Proposal 46: This proposal would help clarify how funds are deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. Read more about this proposal at the following link: https://t.co/x37BxRu2sj.
4) Proposal 48: This proposal would give the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission authority to establish rules limiting impacts to habitat, and wildlife corridors, in the same way they currently establish limits on impacts to individual animals. Read more about this proposal at the following link: https://t.co/5Gh4BfPfIY.
5) Proposal 91: This proposal would prohibit oil and gas drilling in Florida territorial waters. Read more about this proposal at the following link: https://t.co/IkCCIdd4Wj.
The ongoing debate over the deterioration of our environment should not be about politics. Rather, it should be grounded in the welfare of our natural resources, our wildlife, and the citizens of our great state.
It is an honor to serve as a CRC commissioner. Please contact me if you would like more information or have questions and thank you.
Commissioner, & Chair, General Provisions
Constitution Revision Commission 2017/18
These proposals will be, or have been referred to a committee, or multiple committees. If they “get through committee,” and are supported later in early 2018 during the final public hearings, they will be voted on by the full CRC to go, or not to go, on the 2018 ballot. You can support or communicate concerns regarding these proposals by going to the CRC website above and writing the commissioners. If you are really determined you can go to the Committee tab and look at what each committee has before it and narrow it down when you write commissioners. You really have to check the website daily to follow. Anything you can do is appreciated; we are a better state when we all make an effort to be part of the process.
Last Thursday on November 16, the ACOE reported they will reduce the amount of water they are releasing from Lake Okeechobee. The Corp had been releasing at a high rate, on and off, since September 20th. New targets are 2800 cfs east and 6500 cfs west.
Photos below were taken yesterday, 11-19-17 by my husband, Ed Lippisch. We will continue to document the discharges from Lake O, and area canals.
As Thanksgiving approaches, we are thankful the discharges are lessened and that the SFWMD and the public are working hard to plan the EAA Reservoir Senator Negron fought for… We the people of Martin County, will not be satisfied until these discharge stop. The river has its hands full with unfiltered discharges draining agriculture and developed lands from C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44. All must be addressed.
“And where the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes…” Ezekiel
Everyone has heard the story….Florida voted 75% in favor the 2014’s citizen’s initiative, “Amendment 1,” and once it was in the constitution, the hard-earned constitutional amendment was “ignored” or “reinterpreted” by the state legislature…
In 2015 the Tampa Bay Times wrote: “Few betrayals of the public trust have played out so openly and brazenly as the Florida Legislature’s fraudulent effort to implement Amendment 1, the land-buying measure that three-fourths of voters overwhelmingly approved five months ago. This should be a banner year for protecting the state’s endangered lands. Instead, Amendment 1 is becoming a bait-and-switch that would take Florida back — not forward — in saving its natural resources.” (http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-legislators-ignore-voter-intent-on-amendment-1/2227235)
As a commissioner for the Constitution Revision Commission for 2017/18, (http://flcrc.gov) I have sponsored proposal #46 to help fix this issue. Brought to my attention by long time Martin County Native Plant Society member, Mrs Joan Baush, and crafted together with policy advisor, Sue Mullins, and environmental legend, Clay Henderson, this proposal follows at least seven others submitted to the CRC on the subject, not to mention the numerous requests of multiple speakers during the Constitutional Revision Commissions’ statewide public hearings.
The purpose of proposal #46 (originally public proposal #700705) is to “clarify that a percentage of doc-stamp tax revenues will be devoted to the purchase and care of scientifically selected and publicly supported land and water areas for the purposes of conservation.” An explanation, and the proposal are below. To support, please write members of the Legislative Committee, where this will first be heard: http://flcrc.gov/Committees/LE/
The CRC comes around only every 20 years, and is one of five ways Florida can amend its constitution; thus the time is now! Let’s get this clarified!
Land Acquisition Trust Fund Amendment
Section 28, Article X
This proposed Amendment to S. 28, ART. X is to clarify that a percentage of doc stamp tax revenues will be devoted to the purchase and care of scientifically selected and publicly supported land and water areas for the purposes of conservation.
On November 4, 2014, Florida voters approved the Florida Land and Water Conservation Amendment 1 by 75%.
But the 2015 Legislature determined that the broadness of the measure already allowed them to spend the earmarked revenue of a wide array of programs through the Land Acquisition Trust Fund—some not at all environmental in substance—as well as supplant existing agency operations funding with the “new” Amendment 1 dollars.
The measure was designed to dedicate 33 percent of net revenue from the existing excise tax on documents to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, where it was assumed its namesake Land Acquisition Trust Fund would denote the purpose and intent of the amendment to acquire and manage environmentally sensitive land.
Because the drafters of Amendment 1 used the Land Acquisition Trust Fund as the receiving account (thinking it would be obvious the intent for the use of funds), without specifying an amount strictly dedicated to land acquisition, they allowed for all expenditures provided in s.375.041, F.S. governing use of funds for the LATF, which at the time, allowed for virtually anything the Legislature wanted to fund.
Once the measure passed by an overwhelming 75% of the Florida electorate, supporters assumed that at least $300 million annually would be devoted to the Florida Forever program. The amount, over 20 years, was thought to finish the job of securing the lands necessary to protect our natural resources, drinking water, habitat and industries such as agriculture and tourism.
That did not happen (see below.).
What this Amendment Does
The intent of this new Land Acquisition Trust Fund Amendment to S. 28, ART. X is to clarify that a percentage of doc stamp tax revenues will be deposited into the Florida Forever Trust Fund to purchase and care for scientifically selected and publicly supported land and water areas for the purposes of conservation.
The proposal simply amends language passed in 2014 as the Land and Water Legacy Amendment 1 by depositing the earmarked funds in an appropriate Trust Fund and clarifying the purposes for use of those funds.
A specified amount, no less than one third of the revenue deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, is earmarked for deposit into the Florida Forever Trust Fund as it existed in law on January 1, 2017.
This language recognizes that the LATF and other doc stamp-funded accounts should continue to have a suitable amount of revenue to support existing programs such as Springs and Everglades protection, beaches, and local government water projects.
More specificity has been provided in the new amendment by striking the phrase “and improvement” to ensure that Florida Forever funds are spent per the science-based regimen contained within statute (s. 259.105, F.S.), and by adding the phrase “natural” to the type of resources authorized for expenditure.
This Florida Forever Amendment will fix the issue to provide funding to accomplish a majority of Florida’s conservation work through dedicating a set amount each year (depending on revenue, from $175 to $300 million) to be spent according to current statute governing the proven, science-based, willing-seller Florida Forever program.
Implementation of Original Amendment 1
In 2014, a broad coalition of environmental, business and civic leaders proposed the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, which became Amendment 1 to the Florida Constitution. The intent was to recapture the annual amount of funds devoted to land conservation by earmarking a third of the revenue from the doc stamp tax and depositing it into the Land Acquisition TF for the purposes of buying, managing and restoring environmental lands. The measure passed by 75% of voters.
But the Legislature interpreted and appropriated Amendment 1 spending to include agency salaries, IT, risk management insurance, agency vehicles and other non-conservation uses.
The statute has also since been amended to accommodate implementation, per legislative judgement of Amendment 1, to include dedicated funds for Everglades restoration, Springs protection and spending on a broad array of programs and agency expenses.
Florida had a long and distinguished history of scientifically targeting and purchasing the right lands for conservation and recreation purposes since the 1970s, throughout both Republican (Martinez, Bush, Crist) and Democratic (Graham, Chiles) administrations.
Those lands today provide most of the natural resources to support our drinking water supplies, food crops, economic activities and attractive recreational destinations.
The annual funds devoted to Florida Forever had been $300 million, usually issued in bonds paid back by revenue from the documentary stamp tax. Creators of the land programs specifically used the doc stamp tax for its revenue source in order to tie land acquisition to sales in real estate, since all land sales in Florida were assessed a documentary stamp tax.
In 2008, the Legislature discontinued funding for the state’s land conservation program, Florida Forever, citing a poor economy.
Once the economic recovery took hold in Florida, where the state economy in 2013 led the nation in job growth and overall recovery (per University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith in his first quarter economic forecast on March 25, 2014), it was assumed that the state conservation program funds would be replenished.
Since 2010, the Legislature has declined to fund the non-regulatory approach to environmental protection through land acquisition. Funding for the Florida Forever program has not been reinstated.
The Florida Forever program is hugely successful and is the most often-copied land conservation program in the country. It is based on a scientific analysis of which lands in Florida hold the most natural resource value—those that help cleanse water or purify air, create habitat for fish and wildlife, create corridors for the movement of native plants and animals across the landscape and support the water and wildlife necessary to keep our agricultural, tourism and quality of life intact.
Under its conservation programs, the state has protected almost 5 million of its 37.5 million acres. Together with federal conservation lands, almost 9 million acres is in some form of public management, although thousands of those acres belong to the state corrections and management services agencies, military bases and universities, and are not managed for conservation.
The state has identified an additional 2.2 million acres that should be conserved in some form from conversion to more intensive uses. That doesn’t always necessitate outright full-fee purchase of the property, but could be accomplished using a combination of purchase and conservation easements across large corridors of working lands such as ranches to provide habitat and water resource protection.
Dozens of speakers addressing the Constitution Revision Commission during its public hearings voiced their frustration and disappointment with the Legislature’s use of Amendment 1 funds, and appealed for a fix to the issue to accommodate their intent to fund the land acquisition program.
This new Land Acquisition Trust Fund Amendment is likely to pass by at least 75% of the electorate, even with paid opposition. Previous polls taken by the Florida Chamber have shown 78% support statewide, despite opposition from various anti-conservation groups.
Virtually all news outlets endorsed 2014 Amendment 1 and are already writing of their support for a fix that will finally codify the will of Florida voters.
Some counties, including Broward, Palm Beach and St. Lucie, voted more than 80% in support of Amendment 1. Even inland rural counties supported the measure by a vote of at least 40% in support (see map at beginning of this post.)
*This proposal was schedule to go before the Legislative Committee on 11-29-17 but has been postponed. Chances are it will go through in December. It must clear Legislative and General Provisions. You can write members of these committees to support or express concerns at any time: http://flcrc.gov/Committees
Martin County is furiously fighting erosion at Bathtub Beach. Friend, Amy Galante, sent me a web-cam photo today revealing that ocean water appears to have earlier *breached the remaining man-made dune. When I stopped the by the beach, about an hour ago, at lunchtime, workers assured me no water had entered the parking lot and insisted the area was closed and that I needed to leave immediately. When I got out of my car on the side of the road, it certainly looked as though Mother Nature had left her footprint, but what do I know, I’ve only been visiting Bathtub Beach since I was an infant…
11-15-17: *The County has contacted me asked if I am going to “correct” my post. “The breach you are referring to may be the hole cut in the dune to give equipment access to the beach.” —-I do apologize if my word choice was incorrect. I continue to feel this area of Martin County is one of concern.
Chart 2004-2014. Much re -nourishment has been done since this time. Source: Martin County Government.
I am very fortunate to have a small army of people helping me document the Lake Okeechobee discharges this year. Presently, it is the tremendous rate of government sponsored discharge from Lake O that is destroying the regions’ economy and ecology, right before our eyes, ~once again.
Friends of my husband, pilots Dave Stone and Scott Kuhns, took these aerials yesterday, 11-8-17 around 5 pm. When I asked Scott about the plume, he relayed that it went 15 miles south almost all the way to Jupiter Inlet, and since there is also rain driven, fresh, dark- stained water flowing out of the Jupiter Inlet (not over-nutrified, black-sediment water from Lake O) there was no clear delineation of blackened plume to aqua ocean water, like usual–rather, the waters are all dark….
“How far did the plume go east from the St Lucie Inlet?” I asked. “From the coast, as far as the eye could see…”
*The ACOE has been discharging from Lake O since Hurricane IRMA hit on Sept 2oth, 2017. The rate of discharge has gone up and down, however increasing over recent weeks. Word is the St Lucie could be dumped on for many more months, possibly through the end of the year. So don’t count on taking your visiting relatives out fishing this holiday season even though you moved here for the water. This ecological disaster is finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel as Senator Joe Negron, alongside the public, and “River Warrior” groups, particularly Bullsugar, has pushed so hard that the SFWMD and ACOE are finally working towards building an EAA Reservoir that will begin the long journey of changing water drainage culture in South Florida, and “sending the water south.” Please get involved and learn more by viewing this SFWMD EAA RESERVOIR website:https://www.sfwmd.gov/our-work/cerp-project-planning/eaa-reservoir
*Thank you to the people, and the children, groups such as the C4CW, Rivers Coalition, grandparents’ HOA email chains, leadership at Martin Health System, and to the those working for the agencies trying to help the St Lucie. As the River Kidz say:
Florida’s constitution is important, not only because it is the ultimate law of the state, but because it sets the people’s values before the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. These words are a reference in times of question and must be clearly written on the side of the citizen.
Right now, in Article II, Section 7, (a) “Natural resources and scenic beauty,” the Florida constitution reads:
(a) It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty. Adequate provision shall be made by law for the abatement of air and water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise and for the conservation and protection of natural resources.
Because this language is vague, ( what is adequate provision? ), and case law is sparse, these words become “overruled” by Florida Statute that clearly gives “permit holders” standing over citizens, and of course the environment making the present environmental protections in the state constitution “inadequate.”
“No action pursuant to this section may be maintained if the person (natural or corporate) or governmental agency or authority charged with pollution, impairment, or destruction of the air, water, or other natural resources of the state is acting or conducting operations pursuant to currently valid permit or certificate covering such operations, issued by the appropriate governmental authorities or agencies, and is complying with the requirements of said permits or certificates.”
So a citizen is not at liberty to sue if a polluting entity is causing environmental destruction that is acting or conducting operations pursuant to a currently valid permit protected by a state agency. And if someone attempts to sue anyway, they have no real standing in a Florida court of law.
~But, what if a sinkhole spanning 45 feet opened at a Mosaic phosphate fertilizer facility leaking 215 million gallons of “slightly radioactive water,” but this news did not get to the people who have wells in the area for weeks?
~What if the Army Corp of Engineers, and the South Florida Water Management District knew they were discharging billions of gallons of toxic algae from Lake Okeechobee into a community’s river making some citizens sick, yet there was no discussion, warning, or health notices posted until the entire ocean ran green?
~What if an entity could withdraw so much water from a spring or aquifer that….
What if, is now reality.
Yes, permit holders should be “protected,” nonetheless, having a valid permit should not be a right to infringe on the health, safety, and welfare of Florida citizens. Florida citizens and their environment co-exist. When necessary, citizens should have the right to fight for a clean and healthy environment.
We all know that many of Florida’s waters are “growing greener, and more toxic.” This was recently reported by TCPalm’s Jim Turner:
“The 2016 report from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection shows a mixed bag for the state’s waters, with many trending toward more-frequent toxic algae blooms, fueled by rising nitrates from farm and residential fertilizers, sewage, pet waste and other human-related sources.”
Florida’s “impaired” waters are growing, not decreasing. More springs, rivers and lakes are in horrible condition. We see it. Like it or not, the only way to ensure an “adequate” future for Florida’s citizen’s and her waters is to find a way to create acceptable language giving people a constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment.
CRC - 2017P 23By Commissioner Thurlow-Lippisch
1 A proposal to amend
2 Section 7 of Article II of the State Constitution to
3 establish that every person has a right to a clean and
4 healthful environment.
6 Be It Proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission of
9 Section 7 of Article II of the State Constitution is
10 amended to read:
11 ARTICLE II
12 GENERAL PROVISIONS
13 SECTION 7. Natural resources and scenic beauty.--
14 (a) It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and
15 protect its natural resources and scenic beauty. Adequate
16 provision shall be made by law for the abatement of air and
17 water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise and for
18 the conservation and protection of natural resources.
19 (b) Those in the Everglades Agricultural Area who cause
20 water pollution within the Everglades Protection Area or the
21 Everglades Agricultural Area shall be primarily responsible for
22 paying the costs of the abatement of that pollution. For the
23 purposes of this subsection, the terms "Everglades Protection
24 Area" and "Everglades Agricultural Area" shall have the meanings
25 as defined in statutes in effect on January 1, 1996.
26 (c) The natural resources of the state are the legacy of
27 present and future generations. Every person has a right to a
28 clean and healthful environment, including clean air and water;
29 control of pollution; and the conservation and restoration of
30 the natural, scenic, historic, and aesthetic values of the
31 environment as provided by law. Any person may enforce this
32 right against any party, public or private, subject to
33 reasonable limitations, as provided by law.
Proposal #23 was a public proposal. It was created by Traci Deen and her students at Barry University. I sponsored their publicly submitted proposal #700450. There were other proposals also on the “rights of environment/nature” topic including 7000672 by Richard Silvestri; 7000216 by Trevor Tezel; 700739 by Richard Grosso; —submitted to Article 1, Declaration of Rights, 700558 a Florida Environmental Bill of Rights by Paul Laura; and the Rights of Nature submitted independently by Mr. David Hargrove. Thank you to all and the many others!
If you have any ideas or would like to comment, please write me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or at this blog post.
*This proposal will go before the Judicial Committee on November 28 and if it makes through that committee it will go through the General Provisions committee. You can write committees here to support or express concerns: http://flcrc.gov/Committees
Whereas, if the ACOE’s discharge waters of Lake Okeechobee were “filling up the City of Stuart,” last Thursday, October 26, these polluted waters, would have reached the top of Stuart’s iconic 134 foot water tower…
Whereas, once again, our economy and ecology is completed devastated, and high bacteria levels in the water are exacerbated therefrom….We shall remember this day…
We shall, therefore, designate, Thursday, October 26, as “Water Tower Day” and say together: “Lake O discharges have reached the top; this must STOP!”
Yes, to put the Lake Okeechobee discharges into perspective, last Thursday the cumulative 2017 ACOE/SFWMD discharges from S-80 passed 134 “Stuart Feet”. The Stuart water tower is 134 feet tall. See my brother Todd’s cumulative total page below:
– In the lost summer of 2013, Stuart/Martin County received 284 “Stuart Feet”, 2.1 times the height of the tower.
– In 2017, the gates did not open until September 5. So it took only 52 days to accumulate that same amount of discharges!
– In 2013, the discharges started on May 8 (with the exception of some small pulses earlier in the year). That year, it took 91 days to hit a cumulative “134 Stuart Feet” – on August 7.
In other words, the discharges have been almost twice the rate as they began in 2013. You can see this in the slope of my brother’s graphs in the web page above. This doesn’t really mean a lot though. In 2013 the discharges didn’t really begin to accelerate until mid-July. At that point, the rates of discharge were comparable to what we are getting now.
– At the current average of about 4200 cfs, we would hit the 2013 total of 284 Stuart feet in another 42 days (December 9). If they are saying the discharges could continue for months, this could happen. We could have another record year, even though the disaster didn’t start until September. Maybe they will throttle it back a little or start pulsing again so it won’t be the case. In any event, this is already another lost year…
(This blog post was based on writing and ideas by my brother and contributing blogger, Todd Thurlow, http://www.thurlowpa.com)
* I edited this post from “today” to “last Thursday.” An ever rising story. 🙂 JTL