Amendment 1 Aims to Aid Conservation Efforts

Amendment 1 would require the state to dedicate 33 percent of the excise tax on documents to “acquire, restore, improve and manage conservation lands." Plus, this month's Vintage Sarasota.

By Cooper Levey-Baker October 30, 2014

Hi vintage mehjko
Photo courtesy of Sarasota County Historical Resources

 Vintage Sarasota

The Sarasota Woman’s Club—formerly located at 1241 N. Palm Ave, in a building now home to Florida Studio Theatre—began as a meeting of 63 charter members in April 1913. Well-received by the community from its inception, by 1915 the club had grown to 200 members and moved into its $4,500 Tudor Revival-style clubhouse on the corner of Cocoanut and Palm avenues, where it continued to grow. In 1953, the building was rededicated and remodeled, in 1977 it became home to Florida Studio Theatre and in 1985 it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Conservation Conversations

While Amendment 2—you know, the one about marijuana—is grabbing attention, Amendment 1, another proposed change to the state constitution that voters will decide Nov. 4, might be at least as important. It would require the state to dedicate 33 percent of the excise tax on documents to “acquire, restore, improve and manage conservation lands” over the next 20 years. Supporters say the amendment is needed because the Legislature refuses to fund conservation; critics say decisions about how to spend state revenue should be left to elected officials.

“We hit a real crisis in 2009 with the recession and a drastic decrease in state revenue, but now that the economy has turned up again, the Legislature is unwilling to restore funding for conservation. The state is at a tipping point, and the lack of attention over the last five years is beginning to manifest itself.” —Will Abberger of Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, which is behind Amendment 1

“The Florida Constitution has been amended 120 times in 46 years; the U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times in over 200 years. So we ask: Can this issue be dealt with in a statute or in the budget? The answer is yes. This program ought to compete against other projects, not be put at the front of line.” —David Hart, of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which opposes the amendment

“Providing dollars through the budget for water quality [and land] preservation—I’m in favor of that. I’m not in favor of allowing a budget restriction for 20 years since it ties the hands of the Legislature. But trying to oppose something that looks like Mother and apple pie is difficult.” —State Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota

“It is enormously important to the Conservation Foundation. Land conservation means so much not only to our pristine bays and beaches but also our water supply. There is not a better reason to put an amendment into the constitution.” —Christine Johnson, president of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast

“I was a private citizen at the time and so I’m not going on record.” —Bridget Ziegler, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to the Sarasota County School Board, when asked whether she voted this March in favor of the school tax referendum that passed with 77 percent support

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This article appears in the November 2014 issue of Sarasota Magazine. Click here to subscribe. >>