Alachua Co. Makes Amendment 1 Funding Top Priority

morganwatkins
Morgan Watkins

Today, Dec. 3, 2014,  Morgan Watkins printed an article in the Gainesville Sun outlining the preferences and priorities of the Alachua County Commission regarding the employment of the funds generated by the recently adopted Amendment 1 into the Florida Constitution.   You can read her original article at this link, or continue reading below for a re-publication.

One of the commissioners’ top priorities is that the funds from the Amendment should not be used to replace existing funding for springs protection.

Alachua County environmental protection director, Chris Bird believes that the county should be competitive and give careful input to the Florida Legislature as to what their chrisbird2 copypriorities should be.  Commissioner Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson said that the amendment is a top priority because it was voted in by an overwhelming 75% of the voters.  This indicates that the people of Florida believe that it is important.

OSFR commends the actions of the Alachua County Commissioners and would hope that other counties follow suit in their recommendations and caution regarding this extremely important change in our state’s funding and allocations.

OSFR is grateful to the Gainesville Sun for allowing us to reprint their article.

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County makes Amendment 1 funding a top legislative priority

Published: Tuesday, December 2, 2014 at 7:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 2, 2014 at 7:57 p.m.

Now that the general election is over, the Alachua County Commission is gearing up for the 2015 state legislative session and on Tuesday refined its priorities for when Florida legislators head to Tallahassee next spring.

The county plans to advocate for a variety of needs when the Florida Legislature convenes, including voicing its support for mental health-related funding for people with behavioral health issues and disabilities.

One issue that is a top priority for 2015, however, is how the funding that comes from the newly approved Amendment 1, which dedicates tax money toward land and water conservation and restoration efforts, will be used.

The constitutional amendment easily passed in November with 75 percent of those who voted supporting it, but people don’t yet know how the state Legislature will decide to implement it.

Over the next two decades, Amendment 1 is expected to result in more than $10 billion being set aside for conserving, managing and restoring Florida’s land and water resources, according to voteyeson1fl.org, a website helmed by Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, the coalition that worked to get the amendment on the ballot.

The money will come from fees the state collects on real estate transactions, which are known as documentary stamps or “doc stamps.”

Chris Bird, Alachua County’s environmental protection director, told the commission Tuesday that a lot of people want to get a piece of this money.

“We think it’s important for Alachua County to be competitive,” he said.

This is an opportunity to provide input to the Florida Legislature on what the county thinks the priorities should be for this funding, Bird explained.

Newly elected Commissioner Ken Cornell said they want to portray that the county is ready, willing and able to get a good return on this constitutional amendment.

The commission approved some revisions to its 2015 state legislative program during Tuesday’s meeting in advance of Wednesday’s state delegation hearing, which will be held at the Downtown Library from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Legislators who are part of Alachua County’s state legislative delegation will hear from members of the community about their concerns regarding next year’s session.

The county’s 2015 state legislative program says the local government supports reinstating funding for the State Land Acquisition Trust Fund in order to fully fund established Florida Forever programs.

The county also believes a portion of the funds should go to local governments and would like to see some money — to the extent that it is set aside for water-resources projects — spent on endeavors with a high return on investment, according to its state legislative program.

A project could demonstrate that by affording substantial and permanent net improvements such as increasing aquifer recharge or cutting back on groundwater pumping.

One thing the county opposes, however, is using the amendment to replace existing funding for such things as springs protection.

Commissioner Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson told The Sun that Amendment 1 is a top priority for Alachua County because the voters were so clear in their support of it.

A lot of local residents were involved in the push for the amendment, Hutchinson said. The groups involved in getting the measure on the ballot met twice in Alachua County to hammer out the details.

“There’s no way that Alachua County should not lead the charge in making sure the money is spent the way the voters intended,” he said.

The concern over how the Amendment 1 funding will be spent isn’t something that will be entirely resolved this year, Hutchinson said. He said he thinks it will be a conversation they have to have every year with the state Legislature to ensure the money continues to be used properly.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or [email protected]

http://www.gainesville.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage?tc=ar

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