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News Section: Environment

Land Conservation Amendment Gaining Momentum

Published Saturday, December 7, 2013 12:05 am

BRADENTON – So far, more than 350,000 registered Florida voters have signed a petition to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot that would help protect land, wild life and water supplies near new urban development. The measure seeks to put aside more than a third of the fees collected in real estate transactions to be used in purchasing and managing key environmental lands throughout the state.

If passed into law, it would dedicate the funding to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, which has been badly hit by the economic downturn. The revenues would be designated for such purposes for the next 20 years and are estimated to be almost $650 million in 2015 and over $1.2 billion by 2034. The revenues would not come from a new tax, but rather redirect funds from existing excise taxes that currently go to the general fund.

In order to get onto the ballot, the petition will still need just over 326,000 more signatures by February 1 but the group promoting the referendum expects to get there in coming weeks. The measure would then need 60 percent of voters' approval to pass into law. 7.5 percent of doc stamp taxes currently go into the fund, however, much of that revenue is then redistributed. Were the amendment to pass, that would no longer be the case.

Revenues would be used to purchase, improve, restore and manage fisheries, wetlands, forests, drinking water sources and other environmentally-sensitive lands. The measure is being pushed by a group called Florida's Water and Land Legacy. For more information, or to sign the petition, visit the group's website.

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