Florida’s land and water advocates are planning statewide rallies Saturday and the message takes shape in the form of a question. What part of Amendment 1 do state lawmakers not understand?
“This is our last chance to convince our legislators to finish the job and protect Florida's natural treasures before they are gone,” said Aliki Moncrief, director of Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, the coalition that sponsored Amendment 1.
The legislature is convening June 1 in a special session to adopt a state budget and decide how to spend roughly $750 million in Amendment 1 funds. The 20-year Amendment 1 conservation package is worth $22 billion using a part of existing real estate taxes. Rallies were planned in 10 cities, including Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and Miami.
Rallies were also scheduled at the Manatee County Courthouse in Bradenton and at the Lee County Alliance of Arts in Fort Myers, each starting at 11 a.m. A rally in Sarasota wasn’t finalized.
“Amendment 1 was a clear mandate from Florida voters to fund the acquisition of land for parks and to protect wildlife habitat through Florida Forever,” Moncrief said in a statement.
Conservationists say proposals in the House and Senate not only short-change funding for Amendment 1's priorities but redefine an initiative that was approved by 75 percent of voters. Lawmakers want to spend more than $230 million for state agency operations and expenses such as salaries.
Florida Forever was created in 1999 and was initially authorized to spend $300 million a year for land acquisition.
The coalition offered its plan in January at a meeting of the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation. The proposal called for $150 for Florida Forever, $150 million for the Everglades system, $90 million for land management, $50 million for springs, and $55 million for beach management and rural family lands.
At the time, David Cullen of the Florida Sierra Club said, “The coalition is working to get Amendment 1 appropriately treated. We want to see it used for the purposes the voters intended when they gave it 75 percent of the vote.”
Hasta la vista