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Many are asking me, “How does Amendment 1 relate to septic systems. This issue provides a quick answer. But as the weeks have unfolded prior to the election, many more organizations have jumped into the picture opposing Amendment 1. Several links are provided so you can see that No on Amendment 1 is the only way to stop what amounts to a state budget grab and a land grab. There is more going on than meets the eye and surprising real estate purchases are already surfacing that makes us question what’s really going on behind the scenes if Amendment 1 passes.

HOW AMENDMENT 1 RELATES TO SEPTIC SYSTEMS: Septic systems are in use anywhere sewers are not available. They exist in rural, semi-rural, and waterfront areas all over the state. For years, the press, environmental groups, even our own agencies have contributed to the misperception and misrepresentation that septic systems are automatically fouling our aquifers and waterways. Even though there is a significant body of scientific literature that refutes this misperception, the science is largely and, sometimes deliberately ignored. Much of that documentation has been covered in previous issues of the Sludge Report.

Amendment 1 allows agencies such as the Water Management Districts, the Aquatic Preserve groups, Dept. of Environmental Protection, etc. the ability to identify land they feel is needed to preserve or improve water quality or protect recharge to the aquifers and put it on the Florida Forever purchase list. The environmental groups supporting Amendment 1 openly say, the idea is to prevent sprawl outside of urban service areas, to eliminate private ownership of waterfront properties, to eliminate the possibility that ranches and farms might be sold for development. Labeling septic systems as a significant cause of nitrogen pollution simply provides a justification for eliminating them, or preventing the use of septic systems as a means of controlling land use. Properties that use septic systems will be targeted for acquisition, conversion to sewers, or conversion to advanced treatment units on our property. Many property owners will not be able to afford these “fixes” and will have to give up their property. There is nothing in Amendment 1 that requires a scientific basis for targeting land for acquisition, nor does it provide land owners with a means to challenge land acquisition decisions.

ORGANIZATIONS OPPOSING AMENDMENT 1

FLORIDA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE SUMMARY:

http://www.flchamber.com/wp-content/uploads/Flyer_FL-Chamber_VoteNo_Amendment1.pdf

1. Forces the taxpayers of Florida to arbitrarily give the government control over more land than the state has the ability to manage and protect from invasive species.
2. Ties the hands of the Florida Legislature in the event of a future downturn in the economy.
3. Encourages other special interests to try to get their funding placed in the Constitution, potentially harming our elected state leaders’ ability to govern in a fiscally responsible way.
4. Is not a responsible or effective way of protecting Florida’s environmental resources.

FLORIDA TAX WATCH SUMMARY:

http://floridataxwatch.org/resources/pdf/2014VoterGuideFINAL.pdf

It is clear that the amendment would decrease legislative flexibility in budgeting, which Florida TaxWatch has consistently held to be a vital tool for responsible budget decisions. Regardless of the merits of either argument on this issue, this is a policy decision that does not belong embedded in “constitutional concrete” in the Florida Constitution.

FLORIDA COUNCIL OF 100 SUMMARY:

http://www.fc100.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Florida-Council-of-100-Opposes-Budgetary-Carve-out-in-Constitution-for-Buying-State-Land-September-26-2014.pdf

The Florida Council of 100 announced today its opposition to Constitutional Amendment 1, which would force the Legislature to annually spend between $700 million and $1.3 billion for property acquisition, improvement, and management, regardless of Floridians’ needs. For 20 years, Amendment 1 would dedicate at least 33 percent of revenues from the excise tax on documents to water and land conservation efforts.

“The Council of 100 recognizes that protecting our state’s natural resources is a key part of enhancing the quality of life and economic well-being of all Floridians,” said Steve Halverson, chairman of the Florida Council of 100. “However, we should only amend our constitution sparingly and thoughtfully and not use it to accomplish what can be addressed legislatively. The provisions of Amendment 1 can be dealt with legislatively.”

“Amendment 1 would tie the hands of our elected leaders, blocking them from optimally allocating tax dollars to citizens’ needs and preventing them from meeting those needs as the economy fluctuates,” stated Susan Pareigis, president and CEO of the Florida Council of 100. “Moreover, such appropriation by constitutional amendment would set a dangerous precedent by which other special interests would seek to further hamstring our policy makers’ ability to lead in a fiscally prudent manner.”

FLORIDA FARM BUREAU

http://www.floridafarmbureau.org/node/3866

EXCERPT FROM THE ABOVE WEBSITE: “According to the Department of Revenue, throughout the next 20 years, the amendment would siphon off approximately $19 billion from dedicated trust funds…. This amendment would tie the hands of the Florida Legislature in the event of a future downturn in the economy and is not a responsible or effective way of protecting Florida’s environmental resources.

Amendment 1 forces Florida taxpayers to arbitrarily give the government control over more land than the state has the ability to manage and protect from invasive species. This amendment would also encourage other special interests to try to get their funding placed in the Constitution, potentially harming our elected state leaders’ ability to govern in a fiscally responsible way.

The Florida Farm Bureau OPPOSES this amendment.”

COALITION FOR PROPERTY RIGHTS – RED FLAGS, an editorial by Dan Peterson, Exec. Dir, Coalition for Property Rights www.proprights.com

Protecting water and land resources is worthy and should be embraced by every Floridian. However, Amendment One is a special interest proposal mandating an $18B raid on doc stamps revenues for the next 20 years. Red flags should fly before anyone concerned for good public policy regarding conservation and the role of government.

The first red flag raised is the bad public policy of inserting a part of our state’s budget into the constitution. Why? It limits the budgeting authority of the Legislature. It is the Legislature’s responsibility to work with the Governor to balance the budget annually meeting the manifold needs of our state. Through the Legislature, all needs (including environmental) are considered, debated, and approved by our elected representatives, not just those of a single special interest. The model of California, with spending mandates in their constitution, has severely limited their Legislature’s control over their budget. Consequently, they flirt with bankruptcy. Florida should reject going down that road.

A second red flag is the fiscal impact additional conservation land will have on meeting local needs. When property is moved from private ownership to government, it is moved off the tax rolls. Less taxable property means less tax revenue to pay for things like education, roads, infrastructure, and public safety. Local governments will be forced to choose between cutting spending or raising property taxes and/or fees. The counties in Florida with the most conservation lands are also the counties with the highest property taxes.

A third red flag is the impact on our state budget and economy. The amendment authorizes expenditures to acquire land. More government land means more government employees to oversee that land, more materials, and more equipment to maintain that land. Amendment One grows government and increases maintenance expenses.

Beyond growing government and its costs, Florida’s economy will be negatively affected. Targets for acquisition include rural and agricultural lands (farms and ranches). One of Florida’s strongest and largest economic engines is agriculture, supporting thousands of jobs and making Florida a key partner in the international trade market. Approximately one-third of Florida is in agriculture. Farms and ranches contribute to Florida’s economy providing revenue to our state and livelihoods for many Floridians. Removing those lands from production weakens Florida’s economy.

Another red flag is the amount of land already under government ownership and control. Florida is already more than 27% in conservation. That’s more than one-in-four acres. And, the Florida Forever program still receives millions of dollars each year for further purchases. Add other properties for government offices and facilities, the total climbs to nearly one-third of Florida owner and controlled by government. The State of Utah, 57.4 % owned by government, is a case worth noting. Their Congressmen can attest to the challenges of budgeting for education when less than 13% of the land is available for taxation. That, together with too many acres of government owned land either uncared for or off limits to citizens, is another road for Florida to avoid.

The American free market system encourages willing buyers and sellers to transact agreements and there is a place for government to own limited amounts of land. The fact is private owners are better stewards of land than government. Government should not be handed $18B of tax payer money to acquire and control land.

The American dream embraces the principle of private citizens owning and using property as a protection against the potential tyranny of the state. Increased government ownership threatens that principle with no guarantees of better land stewardship.

“We the People” have elected representative leaders who have pledged to make water and land public policy a priority in the 2015 legislative session. Hopefully, they will honor that pledge. Our diverse state deserves a comprehensive approach to addressing our future. Being locked into Amendment One for the next 20 years with its multiple red flags limits that approach and that’s bad for Florida.

LAST AND FINALLY, your editor’s red flags are flying too. The following article was buried in layers of “click here’s” when I was doing some research. One of those “what if” bells went off in my head. What if all this land is being bought only to sell it back to the State of Florida as part of the Amendment 1 land purchases?????? This is not the only Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) poised to sell land to the State of Florida for conservation purchases. There is a lot of money to be made in buying up and re-selling land or conservation easements back to the State using your tax dollars. Further research showed that Gates’ REIT is being is being run by three heavyweights noted for their expertise in Public Land Trusts, Conservation organizations, and environmental law.

http://www.normantranscript.com/cnhi_network/bill-gates-gobbling-up-florida-farmland/article_68451801-67f6-5df0-aa9f-1b7e16614373.html

Bill Gates gobbling up Florida farmland

“LIVE OAK, Fla. — The investment company that manages the wealth of the world��

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