CRC Proposal #46, Land Acquisition Trust Fund, ~Clarifying Language in the Constitution for Citizen Initiative, Amendment 1, of 2014
I will present proposal #46 to the CRC Legislative Committee this Wednesday. You can support this proposal, or express your thoughts on the issue by writing the members of the Legislative Committee: https://www.flcrc.gov/Committees/LE/, or by attending the meeting and speaking briefly during public comment. The Chair is Jose Felix Diaz.
In summary, it is to clarify language so that funds do not include agency salaries, risk management costs, the purchase of vehicles, etc…and clearly states that “no less than one-third of doc-stamp revenue must be deposited into the Florida Forever Trust Fund.”
CRC - 2017P 46By Commissioner Thurlow-Lippisch
1 A proposal to amend
2 Section 28 of Article X of the State Constitution to
3 revise the manner of the distribution of funds that
4 are deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund
5 from a portion of the net revenues derived from the
6 excise tax on documents.
8 Be It Proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission of
11 Section 28 of Article X of the State Constitution is
12 amended to read:
13 ARTICLE X
15 SECTION 28. Land Acquisition Trust Fund.—
16 (a) Effective on July 1 of the year following passage of
17 this amendment by the voters, and for a period of 20 years after
18 that effective date, the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall
19 receive no less than 33 percent of net revenues derived from the
20 existing excise tax on documents, as defined in the statutes in
21 effect on January 1, 2012, as amended from time to time, or any
22 successor or replacement tax, after the Department of Revenue
23 first deducts a service charge to pay the costs of the
24 collection and enforcement of the excise tax on documents.
25 (b) Funds in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall be
26 expended only for the following purposes:
27 (1) No less than one-third of the revenue must be deposited
28 into the Florida Forever Trust Fund, as defined by the statutes
29 in effect on January 1, 2017.
30 (2) The remainder must be expended as provided by law, to
31 finance or refinance: the acquisition and improvement of land,
32 water areas, and related property interests, including
33 conservation easements, and natural resources for conservation
34 lands including wetlands, forests, and fish and wildlife
35 habitat; wildlife management areas; lands that protect water
36 resources and drinking water sources, including lands protecting
37 the water quality and quantity of rivers, lakes, streams,
38 springsheds, and lands providing recharge for groundwater and
39 aquifer systems; lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area and
40 the Everglades Protection Area, as defined in Article II,
41 Section 7(b); beaches and shores; outdoor recreation lands,
42 including recreational trails, parks, and urban open space;
43 rural landscapes; working farms and ranches; historic or
44 geologic sites; together with management, restoration of natural
45 systems, and the enhancement of public access or recreational
46 enjoyment of conservation lands.
47 (3)(2) To pay the debt service on bonds issued pursuant to
48 Article VII, Section 11(e) as may be required.
49 (c) The moneys deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust
50 Fund, as defined by the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012,
51 shall not be or become commingled with the general revenue fund
52 of the state.
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.
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
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
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.