Water and Land Amendment Backers Await Legal Review

Gary Cooper Citrus, Florida, General, Specialty Crops, Sugar, Vegetables

From NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA (Tallahassee) – The coalition seeking to put funding for Florida Everglades’ preservation and other state water projects into the state Constitution have gathered enough signatures to have their proposal reviewed by Florida’s Supreme Court. Florida’s Water and Land Legacy Campaign announced Thursday that it has collected 116,573 signatures of Florida voters, topping the threshold needed for the review in hopes of getting it on the 2014 ballot. The proposed amendment is seeking to guarantee the spending of $10 billion on water projects over the next 20 years. “We hope the court will rule as soon as possible and we’re hopeful that will be as soon as this summer,” said Will Abberger, the campaign’s chair, and director of conservation finance for The Trust for Public Land. “In the meantime, we’re going to keep on collecting as many signatures as we can with our volunteers across the state.” The Water and Land Conservation amendment would dedicate one-third of the existing documentary stamp tax, which is paid when real estate is transferred, to restore the Everglades, protect drinking water sources, and restore spending on the state’s land-buying program. The environmental coalition was created last summer with leaders expressing frustration that funding has decreased for the state’s marquee land-buying program, Florida Forever, as well as concern over spending amounts for other environmental needs. Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget for the coming year suggests $32 million for a water quality plan for the Everglades, along with $28 million for additional storm water expansion and reservoir construction projects around Lake Okeechobee. The Everglades benchmark has been supported by both the House (HB 7065) and the Senate (SB 768).