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Budget Update

May 1, 2017 by FLERA

Budget Conferees and allocations were announced yesterday and conference committees began meeting yesterday evening.  Unresolved budget items will bump to the full chairs on Saturday at noon and to the presiding officers at noon on Sunday.  Budgets will need to be finalized, printed and on the desks next Tuesday in order for the Legislature to Sine Die next Friday.

Land conservation programs continue to suffer in budget negotiations.  The Rural and Family Lands Program has not even been a part of budget negotiations to date.  Last year, the program received $35M.  After House and Senate Offer No. 1, Florida Forever has been zeroed out and the item is closed, although Representative Caldwell has indicated that negotiations are ongoing and there may be funding for Florida Forever as budget negotiations continue.  House Offer No. 1 includes $15M for Florida Communities Trust, but the Senate currently has zero funding for this program.

HB 7119 may also appear in budget negotiations.  This bill would streamline and reprioritize Florida Forever.  An amendment in the House would provide funding in out years, scaling up from $57M next year to $200M going forward.  However, HB 7119 does not contain any funding for this budget year.

The Senate met the House position on the Local Government Cleanup Contracting Program and this item has closed out at $13M, a $1M reduction over last year.  The Distribution to Counties from Motor Vehicle Registration Proceeds for air pollution programs was fully funded on both sides at $8.7M and is not part of the current ongoing budget negotiations.

Funding for Beaches is at $30M in the House, with no Hurricane Matthew recovery funding and $100M in the Senate, including $18M for Hurricane Matthew recovery and $50M for the traditional program. Water Projects are currently at $20M in the House and $58M in the Senate.  Although both the House and Senate offer continue to have significant levels of funding for Everglades Restoration, this item will likely be one of the last programs negotiated, as the House and Senate negotiate over SB 10.  This bill addresses water storage south of Lake Okeechobee.

Land Acquisition Trust Fund Spending

February 20, 2017 by flera

Legislation Sets Aside $35M from LATF annually

SB 234 by Senator Bradley will be heard in the Senate Environmental & Preservation Conservation Committee next week.  This legislation sets aside $35M from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) annually to pay for restoration of the St. Johns River and its tributaries or the Keystone Heights Lake Region.  The companion measure is HB 847 by Representative Payne.

In addition to these bills, there are several other pieces of legislation that dedicate LATF dollars.  HB 551 by Representative Stone and SB 874 by Senator Young set aside $20M in LATF dollars annually to retrofit septic tanks or connect homes to central sewer in the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries.  The Governor has proposed a $40M matching grant program for local governments funded with general revenue.

HB 663 by Representative Peters would set aside $100M in LATF dollars for water infrastructure spending for certain projects identified in a recovery or prevention strategy or in a regional water supply plan, and water quality restoration projects identified in a basin management action plan or in a reasonable assurance plan, that conserve, replenish, or enhance surface water or groundwater by raising aquifer levels, reduce saltwater intrusion or otherwise improve the water quality of an aquifer, rehydrate wetlands, supplement ecologically beneficial surface water flows, reduce or eliminate pollutant discharges, or provide similar water resource benefits.

Lastly, SB 984 by Senator Mayfield sets aside $30M annually for Indian River Lagoon restoration.  Additional bills related to LATF spending are expected as well.  Demand for LATF dollars far exceeds their availability, particularly since the LATF must pay the debt service on bonds.  We will continue to keep you posted as spending proposals for environmental programs advance.

Studies Find Conservation Lands Can Boost Tax Revenues

August 11, 2015 by FLERA

Recently, the Gainesville Sun reported that studies have indicated property values increase when located next to conservation lands. Advocates of government purchased conservation land say it boosts taxes by increasing the value of nearby properties. Our very own FLERA Secretary/Treasurer Ramesh Buch is mentioned in the article for his study with the Alachua County Forever Land Conservation Program. Please click here to read the article.

FLERA 2015 Summer Symposium June 25th-26th

June 1, 2015 by FLERA

We invite you to the beautiful Prairie Creek Preserve in Gainesville, Florida to attend the FLERA Summer Symposium June 25 -26, 2015. This event offers the opportunity to meet and network with environmental professionals from around the state. Local and state regulators, scientists, specialists, and students will share their experience and knowledge about floodplain management, land conservation, air quality, waste management alternatives, and wetlands topics at roundtable sessions. Attendees will also hear about the 2015 legislative session, Amendment 1 updates, and RESTORE Act Funding from our speakers.

We are also excited to hear about Floodplain Management as it relates to wetland mitigation from Steve Martin of Florida Department of Emergency Management (FDEM), about UMAM from John Humphreys of the Florida Department of Environmental protection, and much more!

For a detailed agenda, online registration and more information please visit the FLERA  Conferences and Education website.

5th Amendment Takings Clause and Sea Level Rise?

May 19, 2015 by FLERA
Does the Fifth Amendment Takings Clause imply that the government needs to protect private property from environmental threats?

There has been debate over regulatory restrictions on the use of private property as related to the 5th Amendment Takings Clause. Diminution of the value of a particular person’s property related to a general regulation was not considered an issue under the Takings Clause until 1922 when the Supreme Court held that if a regulation went “too far,” it could constitute a taking that would require just compensation by the government. But. how far is too far? Subsequent Supreme Court decisions have helped to clarify this: 1- Regulations that deprive a person from developing and/or using their property requires just compensation and 2- A permanent physical invasion of the person’s property as a result of a regulation constitutes a taking.

So, does the Fifth Amendment Takings Clause imply that the government needs to protect private property?

The Michigan Law Review article, “Passive Takings: The State’s Affirmative Duty to Protect Property” written by Christopher Serkin, argues that ecological threats, such as sea level rise, may require the government to respond and/or pay compensation for the resulting damages. Should the Takings Clause include property damage incurred when government doesn’t act to protect property?

Abstract:
The purpose of the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause is to protect property owners from the most significant costs of legal transitions. Paradigmatically, a regulatory taking involves a government action that interferes with expectations about the content of property rights. Legal change has therefore always been central to regulatory takings claims. This Article argues that it does not need to be and that governments can violate the Takings Clause by failing to act in the face of a changing world. This argument represents much more than a minor refinement of takings law because recognizing governmental liability for failing to act means that, in at least some circumstances, the Constitution compels the government to protect property. Such liability runs counter to conventional understandings of constitutional law in which the Constitution primarily enshrines negative liberties. And yet this liability follows surprisingly naturally from leading takings and property theory. The Takings Clause, then, can serve as a previously unrecognized basis for affirmative governmental obligations. The Article ultimately illustrates this new category of passive takings with the example of sea-level rise, arguing that ecological threats may compel the government either to respond or pay compensation for the damages resulting from this ecological change.

Article:

http://michiganlawreview.org/passive-takings-the-states-affirmative-duty-to-protect-property/

 

Posted by Lisa Foster, FLERA BOD

Overview of the FL Senate Environmental Preservation & Conservation Committee’s Meeting Regarding Amendment 1

January 8, 2015 by FLERA

On  Wednesday, January 7th, 2015, the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee met to discuss the implementation of Amendment 1. This is the first legislative discussion on this matter.

Senators on the Committee are:
Chair: Senator Charles S. “Charlie” Dean, Sr. (R)
Vice Chair: Senator Wilton Simpson (R)
Senator Thad Altman (R)
Senator Greg Evers (R)
Senator Alan Hays (R)
Senator David Simmons (R)
Senator Christopher L. Smith (D)
Senator Darren Soto (D)
All members were present. Chair Dean acknowledged the tremendous interest in this issue. Staff Lead Pepper Uchino outlined a breakdown of the language approved by the voters, now located in Article X section 28. of the Florida Constitution, then gave an overview of existing Section 201 funding. Current statutory funding breakdowns are now in conflict with the constitution so changes will need to be made in order to properly appropriate the necessary funding amounts.

Note: Comments can be submitted on flsenate.gov at a button titled “Water and Land Conservation”.

Some comment highlighted below:

• Sen. Soto asked whether septic/sewage projects could be funded. Staff could not answer that question because it was at the discretion of the legislature. The Senator was concerned that funding would stray away from the conservation causes it was intended for.

• Sen. Dean pledged to be careful and cognizant of the will of the voters.

• Sen. Altman asked why we can’t just revive Florida forever. Mr. Uchino indicated that it still exists in statute and could be reimplemented easily.

• Sen. Hays made the point that doc stamp funding is not the only funding proposed, there is also General Revenue funding for environmental concerns.

• Sen. Evers stated that the purchase of lands is important but FDEP must make sure to factor in management of the lands. If you cannot sustainably manage lands, you should not be buying them. Also if wastewater is polluting streams, we should fund cleanups of those pollution sources.

• Sen. Simmons discussed that the language in the constitution was broader than just purchasing conservation land. The goal is water preservation with a wide variety of activities. He stressed that it was the will of the drafters of the amendment that they have complete discretion of fund distribution of the broad aspects as outlined. This includes infrastructure needed to keep resources clean.

• Sen. Soto stressed that the Legislature should be deciding what they “should” do, not just what they “can” do.

• Sen. Altman did not agree completely with Sen. Simmons that the intent of the amendment was not solely land conservation funding.

• Chair Dean wrapped up the comments by saying that everyone has a seat at this table and it will all get discussed.

Public Input –
•Eric Draper (Florida Water Land Legacy) summarized the intent of the amendment and provided the committee with a one year appropriations funding proposal. This proposal did not provide funding for wastewater issues.

•Janet Bowman (Nature Conservancy) hoped that focus be made on land purchases and land management for funding.

•David Cullen (Sierra Club) stressed his concern on this process becoming like the education lottery.

•Debbie Rumburger (League of Women Voters) stated that their organization is dedicated to assist in this process.

•Merrilee Malwitz-Jibson (Our Santa Fe River) noted how the LATF should not just be for projects, but allow for land purchases, particularly those that serve to protect springsheds.

The meeting ended after this testimony.

Florida Senate EP&C to Discuss Amendment 1 on 1/7/2015

January 5, 2015 by FLERA

The Florida Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee will meet on Wednsday, January 7th, 2015 to discuss Amendment 1. The EP&C meeting is from 3:30-5:30 pm and the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, Amendment 1, is the only item on the agenda.  The meeting can be viewed on The Florida Channel.

According to The Tampa Bay Times: “Senate President Andy Gardiner laid out his session priorities in an informational meeting with reporters last week and said he will be focused on implementing Amendment 1…He said committees will conduct hearings in January on what the authors of Amendment 1 had in mind as the Legislature works on how to implement the new constitutional provision to dedicate one-third of the state’s documentary stamp taxes to land and water preservation.”  (http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/stateroundup/the-buzz-senate-president-gardiner-talks-about-his-priorities/2211316)

 

 

LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION FUND APPLICATION CYCLE

December 18, 2014 by FLERA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Dec. 12, 2014
CONTACT: DEP Press Office, 850-245-2112, DEPNews@dep.state.fl.us

DEP ANNOUNCES LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION FUND 2014-2015 APPLICATION CYCLE ~ Federal grant opportunity for local governments to enhance public outdoor recreation ~
TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has established an application submission cycle for the fiscal year 2014-2015 Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund Program.  Grant applications will be accepted Monday, Feb. 16, 2015, through Friday, Feb. 27, 2015.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a federal competitive program, which provides matching grant funds for acquiring or developing land for public outdoor recreational use.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of this landmark conservation program.  Land and Water Conservation Fund funding has benefited nearly every county in America, supporting over 41,000 projects.
“We encourage local governmental entities to examine the needs of their communities and apply for Land and Water Conservation Fund grant funds,” said Rick Mercer, director of DEP’s Office of Operations. “This grant opportunity can help improve community parks and develop trails in the community that families might otherwise not have access to.”
Additional information, including the 2014-2015 Land and Water Conservation Fund application, can be found here.
The Land and Recreation Grants Section within the Bureau of Financial Management administers the Land and Water Conservation Fund on behalf of the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Eligible participants include all local governmental entities with the legal responsibility for the provision of outdoor recreational sites and facilities for the use and benefit of the public.  In accordance with the Land Water Conservation Fund Act, available program funds for fiscal year 2014-2015 are contingent upon an annual appropriation to each state by Congress. Allocations have not yet been made.

Source: http://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/FLDEP/bulletins/e2ac4d

 

fdep

The Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, Amendment 1

October 7, 2014 by FLERA
The Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, Amendment 1 is on the November 4, 2014 ballot in the state of Florida as an initiated constitutional amendment.

Amendment 1 funds the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) to acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation lands including wetlands and forests; fish and wildlife habitat; lands 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. Chapter 201, FS regulates the tax levy on documents transferring interest in Florida real property.  That rate is $.70 per $100.
The LATF was created by the Florida Legislature in 1963. It was designed to purchase land for parks and recreation areas. Originally, the legislature allocated revenue from a five percent tax on outdoor clothing and equipment.  In 1968, the legislature abandoned the tax and funded the LATF through the sale of recreation bonds. These bonds were paid for by a documentary stamp tax on real estate transactions and financial documents.  Since 2009, however, appropriations for the fund have been greatly reduced or provided to purposes other than land acquisition. The initiative is an attempt to provide a consistent revenue source for the LATF.
The Financial Impact Estimating Conference is a state commission in Florida charged with determining the fiscal impacts of any proposed initiatives. In January 2014, the FIEC stated, “This amendment does not increase or decrease state revenues. The state revenue restricted to the purposes specified in the amendment is estimated to be $648 million in Fiscal Year 2015-16 and grows to $1.268 billion by the twentieth year. No additional local government costs are expected.”

Amendment_1_Summary_for_FLERA

Florida Conservation Lands – Deadlines Fast Approaching

November 14, 2013 by FLERA

State Conservation Land Assessment Deadline 11/15/2013

The deadline to submit comments on the initial results of the State Conservation Land Assessment to the FDEP is TOMORROW, Friday, November 15, 2013.

You may provide comments via email: ARC_mailinglist@dep.state.fl.us

The 2013 Legislature provided up to $50 million of funding for important conservation lands, if up to $50 million of land no longer needed for conservation is sold as surplus.  The FDEP, therefore, conducted an assessment of state-owned conservation land in order to determine which parcels could potentially be sold. The money from any sales will allow the state to purchase land with better, more critically needed resources, such as springs protection, water quality or quantity resources and military buffering.

Source: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/lands/assessment/

 

Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment Deadline 11/30/2013

The Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment dedicates funding for water and land conservation, management and restoration by amending the state constitution. The amendment sets aside one-third (33 percent) of Florida’s existing documentary stamp tax revenues (paid when real estate is sold) and guarantees that these funds can be used only for conservation purposes, such as acquiring conservation and recreation lands, managing existing lands, protecting lands that are critical for water supply and restoring degraded natural systems.

The deadline to sign the petition to place this constitutional amendment on the ballot is November 30, 2013.

 

Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment Petition Form

 

Source: http://floridawaterlandlegacy.org/

 

 

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