By Daniel Tilson
Funny thing about the “will of the people” in Florida. Even when expressed via an overwhelming majority “Yes” vote on a constitutional amendment, the Legislature can and does subvert it.
That’s what’s happening with the environmental protections and preservations Floridians thought were a done deal after more than 75 percent of voters joined forces to pass Amendment 1 last November. But, um … no, not a done deal.
As explained by the Florida Water & Land Legacy coalition that led the campaign to pass the landmark amendment, it’s supposed to achieve these goals:
- Ensure that our cherished beaches, rivers, lakes, springs and coastal waters are protected for future generations.
- Direct one-third of existing fees collected by the state when real estate is sold to protect natural areas and wildlife habitat and preserve our water quality for the next two decades.
- Reinforce Florida’s longstanding leadership on water and land conservation.
Problem is, Republican legislators are acting as if that’s some sort of tree-hugger’s wish list, rather than the law of the land.
Even before the Florida Senate started “interpreting” the people’s mandate this week in crafting a new state budget, the House had already passed a bad water bill (HB7003). The bill does some of what it’s supposed to do about cleaning up our water supply and keeping it clean. But then it throws a roundhouse punch, proposing that the current farm permitting process used to prevent agricultural water pollution be replaced with a voluntary “best management practices” program.
In plain English, that means chronic polluters will be given a little help before being sent off and trusted to do the right thing moving forward. Think foxes and henhouse. Us hens don’t make out well in such scenarios.
Then late this week the Senate comes out with initial budget recommendations that outraged mainstream environmentalists and threatens to make a mockery of Amendment 1 goals — and of anyone who still believes this Legislature is sincere about implementing this amendment as intended when passed into law.
The bottom line there is that the full amount of money intended to be used for land acquisition needed to achieve the law’s goals is not being appropriated. There are all kinds of confusing details to sort through, and a ton of legislative legalese being spread around to explain the massive shortfall. But rather than salve on a wound, it feels like salt. It feels like a betrayal.
Why would the legislators do this? Forget their explanations and rationalizations. Most of them are simply caving in to Big Sugar and Big Agriculture, hungry eyes on campaign contributions to come, and already banked. Can you say, “Quid Quo Pro”?
The good news is, there are five weeks left to this legislative session, and therefore ample time to give your legislators an earful, both your state representatives and senators. Passing Amendment 1 was only Step 1 of securing Florida’s environmental future.
Next up, we have to force this Florida Legislature to stop trying to have it both ways –enacting someprotections while still sucking up to and gifting those wealthy business interests. Time for those hired hands of ours to start doing the hell what we tell them to, wouldn’t you agree?
Daniel Tilson has a Boca Raton-based communications firm called Full Cup Media, specializing in online video and written content for non-profits, political candidates and organizations, and small businesses.