On June 23, 2018,. the Gainesville Sun published the following editorial with which we totally agree. Sad when the citizens of a state must sue their elected lawmakers, merely to get them to do their job. Sad, indeed, when nearly 75 percent of voting Floridians send a clear message which their (non)leaders ignore blatantly and with arrogance. Sad we have the leadership void in Tallahassee.
We can start the turn in November. Do your research and vote out the bad legislators. Look at what they have done for the environment in the past and put no faith in what they say.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Editorial: Our looting Legislature
By The Ocala Star-Banner
A judge’s ruling June 16 has Florida’s environmental community cautiously elated and state legislators fuming.
In 2014, Florida’s voters passed Amendment 1, which constitutionally set aside an annually fixed percentage of real estate documentary stamps in order to fund conservation in the state — land acquisition in particular.
Florida’s voters recognized the need for the amendment as they saw more and more of their tax dollars paying to denude the state of its rich environment, rather than protecting it. This was their way to even the playing field.
So, 75 percent voted to create a continuing fund to keep “for sale” signs off of critical conservation lands.
It did not take long for the Legislature to subvert the intent and bleed off millions of dollars for salaries, vehicles and infrastructure for the wildlife and conservation agencies, previously and correctly bankrolled by general fund revenue.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran called the ruling “a clear abuse of judicial authority.” We heard the same criticism when the state Supreme Court overturned his gerrymandering schemes three times, eventually taking the task away from lawmakers and doing the job itself.
There is little doubt that the Legislature will appeal the decision. After all, it doesn’t cost it a penny — it costs us.
Attorney Andy Bardos, who represents the House and Senate, told Sunshine State News that the court’s decision should be based on the written text of the amendment, and not the perceived intent of the voters. He called the 75 percent plurality “pure speculation.” Geez.
Circuit Judge Charles Dodson, who issued the ruling, explained that he read the amendment over 100 times and considered the Supreme Court’s ruling, approving the title and ballot summary.
Here it is: “Funds the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation lands including wetlands and forests; fish and wildlife habitat; lands protecting water resources and drinking water sources, including the Everglades, and the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; beaches and shores; outdoor recreational lands; working farms and ranches; and historic or geologic sites, by dedicating 33 percent of net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents for 20 years.”
What part seems speculative to you?
The Legislature may have more reason to fight this ruling than conservation dollars. The voters also OK’d the Sadowski Act in 1992. It added 10 cents to the real estate doc stamps, expressly to fund affordable housing initiatives. It, too, was more temptation than lawmakers could bear.
But, in “sweeping” affordable housing dollars into the general fund, they didn’t even make a pretense of using the dollars for the intended purpose. They just looted the pot.
Since 2009, of the $2.3 billion raised by the amendment, $833 million has actually gone to affordable housing efforts statewide.
Then there’s the Lottery, which was meant to enhance education for our kids, but now only replaces the dollars the state cut from education funding.
Might the recent conservation ruling embolden affordable housing advocates to bring a similar challenge on the Sadowski dollars?
We can only hope — and maybe “speculate” a little harder.