UPDATE: Amendment 1 supporters boarded their buses back home from the “Rally in Tally” around 5 p.m. after a long day of discussions.
Maryvonne Devensky, a member of the Sierra Club out of the Suwannee-St. Johns area, said the rally was a success, but the real success depends on where the money goes.
“What I see in this country is we have laws to protect the environment, and they are not respected,” Devensky said. “Eventually, we’re going to have a crisis — it’s already a crisis — unless we really take measures to conserve the water and also measures to protect it — to protect it’s quality.”
Not everyone in the capital agreed with Devensky, however.
Sen. Alan Hays, a Republican of District 11, said he did not support Amendment 1 because he does not support “buying more land for the sake of just buying more land to stop development.”
“Before we buy anymore land, we need to know what specific purpose is that acquisition going to serve,” Hays said, “if indeed it has a statewide interest in purchasing that land.”
The Florida legislative session will begin in March, and the bill will go into effect on July 1.
UPDATE: After listening to speakers for several hours at the “Rally in Tally,” attendees separated into regional groups to visit their state representatives.
State Rep. Clovis Watson, Jr., a Democrat of District 20, said he supports Amendment 1 and hopes his colleagues on both sides of the aisle will come together to support conservation in Florida. He noted some legislators in the south have expressed concerns specific to their own region, such as beach erosion; though Watson agrees those concerns should be addressed, he said Amendment 1 was intended to protect springs and purchase the lands needed to do so.
“We are a springs destination,” he said. “Water is our future. Without it, none of it will matter.”
State Rep. Dennis Baxley, a Republican of District 23, said he is grateful to see Florida’s springs getting attention even though he did not support Amendment 1.
“I didn’t actually support the amendment not because I didn’t support the issue but because the fiscal management piece was a concern to me,” Baxley said. “But I accept that it’s identified as a priority of the people, and I share their priority about it.”
He said Amendment 1 is a significant start, but there are still questions about how to spend the available money.
“I think the great dynamic right now is we’re in for a big discussion on what are the best ways to protect ground water,” Baxley said. “Is it buying more land? Is it fixing community water systems that are broken? Is it getting people off the septic tanks? There’s probably parts to all that, and I think the key is going to be to look at it basin by basin.”
UPDATE: The “Rally in Tally” buses have arrived in the state capital.
About 300 people from five buses gathered at the Historic Capitol Museum to hear speakers’ thoughts on how best to use the money set aside for conservation efforts by Amendment 1.
Supporters wave signs that bare messages like “PROTECT OUR WATER,” “Honor Our Vote” and “Clean Water is Our Right.” Speakers invoke “the spirit of Amendment 1,” but some believe it might not be enough.
Former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum supports the conservation efforts behind the initiative, but he’s not so sure the bill will be enough to sustain Florida’s environmental resources on its own .
“This is a very small amount of money compared to what the needs are,” McCollum said. “We need literally billions.”
Ed Shindle, a member of the Florida Trail Association and the Sierra Club in Tampa, has been working to collect signatures in support of Amendment 1 since the effort began. He shared McCollum’s concern about how far funds over the next 20 years will really go in conservation.
“This is a long-term vision with short-term money,” Shindle said. “And it may not even be enough money to solve the problem.”
Fracking, solar energy options, the Florida springs and the purchase of conservation lands are also among the central issues at the rally
Original Post: Activists and environmentalists from all over the state are making their way to Tallahassee this morning to join the Floridians for Clean Water and Amendment 1 “Rally in Tally.”
Groups including Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, which sponsored Amendment 1 on the November 2014 ballot, organized buses to transport supporters from Bradenton, Ft. Myers, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Melbourne, Ocala, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Tampa and Port St. Lucie. The pre-legislative rally will address the allocation of funds dedicated to purchasing and restoring conservation lands.
Amendment 1, the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, was approved on November 4 with about 75 percent of the vote — the bill needed at least 60 percent to pass. The bill dedicates 33 percent of total revenue from the state document stamp tax on real estate transactions to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.
The rally buses will all arrive in the capitol at 11 a.m. Stay tuned with WUFT News for updates from the event throughout the day.
Jonathan Muñoz and Danielle Prinz contributed reporting.