Court Ruling Supports the 2014 Intent of Florida’s Land Acquisition Amendment

Many Floridians have felt state officials have been misusing public funds earmarked for water and land conservation. On Friday, they won a ruling that supports that notion.

amendment 1In 2014 an overwhelming majority supported Amendment 1. This change allocated 33% of real estate doc stamp taxes to Florida’s Land Acquisition Fund. The amendment passed with support from 75% of Florida voters. This vote demonstrated Floridians’ appreciation for public lands and continuing to conserve the special places (such as the 700 natural springs) that make the state’s ecology so unique.

Since that time, Florida officials have interpreted the amendment’s language differently. They have used these funds for general operating expenses and salaries, instead of acquiring new land for conservation and public parks. In response to the outcry from environmental groups, state legislators told the public they didn’t understand the language of the amendment. As a result, Florida conservationists filed suit.

Thanks to Friday’s ruling by a Circuit Court Judge, the interpretation is now clear. Florida voters want these funds to go towards new conservation and restoration projects. In a release from Florida Conservation Voters, Executive Director Aliki Moncrief stated, “The judge handling the Amendment 1 lawsuit sided with the people of Florida, noting the voters’ clear intent to fund more parks and conservation lands.”

It’s unfortunate that a 75% mandate wasn’t enough to get our state legislators to act responsibly on Florida’s environment. The reality is that we have to take our elected officials to court to keep them accountable.

Groups such as Florida Wildlife Federation, St. Johns Riverkeeper, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, Sierra Club and Earthjustice should be applauded for their involvement in this case.