The Sierra Club, the Florida Wildlife Federation, St. Johns Riverkeeper and the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida represented by Earthjustice filed suit today asking the courts to force the Florida Legislature to return Amendment 1 funds to a conservation land buying fund.
"We are asking for Florida’s courts to uphold the constitution as amended by the voters,” said Sierra Club Florida Conservation Chair Tom Larson. “The legislature needs to be held accountable for ignoring the will of the people."
The funds from documentary stamps on land transactions, which are expected to reach $740 million next year, were diverted by the Legislature to accounts that had nothing to do with land acquisition. Among other things, they were used to pay state executive salaries, agricultural pollution subsidies and insurance premiums.
According to the suit: “The Legislature owes the people of the State of Florida a duty to honor and effectuate the intent of the voters in the use of the funds placed in trust under this constitutional amendment.”
The November 2014 ballot summary stated:
Funds the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation lands including wetlands and forests; fish and wildlife habitat; land 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.
An extraordinary 75 percent of the electorate voted for Amendment 1 proving that the people of the state understand the need to protect the richness of Florida's wild heritage and unique waters.