Conservation fund amendment will be on the 2014 ballot in Florida

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January 20, 2014

By Ryan Byrne

Florida
Proponents of the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment can officially proclaim that their measure will be on the ballot in November. On January 17, the initiated constitutional amendment was designated “Amendment 1” by the Department of State. The total valid signature count was 690,802. The amendment seeks to dedicate thirty-three percent of net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.[1]

The signature campaign garnered over four hundred endorsements from environmental, recreational, political, religious and women’s organizations and small businesses. Bob Ackerman, owner of Brasington’s Adventure Outfitters, praised the measure as aiding small outdoor and recreational businesses. He said, “We gave out thousands of petitions. It is a natural constituency for our customers. They go kayaking, backpacking. They hike. They do all of the things that require there be natural spaces. This is going to save some of those natural spaces that are being really degraded. It’s hard to backpack down a four-lane highway.”[2]

The Land Trust Acquisition Fund (LATF) was created by the Florida Legislature in 1963. The LATF was designed to fund the Outdoor Recreation and Conservation Program, which would primarily purchase land for parks and recreation areas. Originally, the legislature allocated revenue from a five percent tax on outdoor clothing and equipment, including bathing suits. In 1968, the legislature abandoned the tax and funded the LATF through the sale of recreation bonds. These bonds were paid for by a documentary stamp tax on real estate transactions and financial documents.[3] Since 2009, however, appropriations for the fund have been slashed. The initiative is an attempt to provide a new revenue source for the LATF.[4]

There haven’t been any measures regarding environmental funds in over a decade in Florida. In 1998, the Natural Resources Conservation Amendment was approved with 72.29% of the vote, thus authorizing bonds for land conservation, among other things. The Everglades Trust Fund was approved by voters in 1996, but with 57.27% of the vote. Since 2006, all constitutional amendments on the ballot require at least 60.00% of the vote to be approved due to the Supermajority Vote Amendment. Nevertheless, every single measure regarding an environmental fund or bond has been approved by Florida voters since 1970.

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