Friday, August 28, 2015

Fla. Wildlife Federation files lawsuit to restore diverted State land dollars

August 27, 2015
Manley Fuller, President, Florida Wildlife Federation
(850) 656-7113 or (850) 567-7129
Injunction Seeks to Restore Money to State's Conservation Land-buying Fund
TALLAHASSEE - In a legal filing today, the Florida Wildlife Federation and three other citizen groups are seeking an injunction to stop state officials from diverting the state's conservation land-buying fund to pay for other state functions.
"The voters who approved the Water and Land Conservation Amendment 1 last November are clear - by a 75 percent majority - that they want this tax money to buy conservation land," Florida Wildlife Federation president Manley Fuller said.  "In our court filing today, we point out that the Legislature took the land conservation money and earmarked it for a variety of things it isn't supposed to pay for, including worker's comp claims and executive salaries."
The suit asks a Leon Circuit Court judge to order the Legislature to return monies back to the state's Land Acquisition Trust Fund. Earthjustice is representing the Wildlife Federation and three other groups -- Sierra Club, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, and the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida in the lawsuit. Today's action is an amendment to a legal complaint the groups filed in June.
According to today's legal complaint, the Legislature has diverted funds from the state's Land Acquisition Trust Fund to pay for various appropriations, including:
- $1,222,158 for risk management insurance for the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Department of State and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, covering liability for, among other things, damage awards for Civil Rights Act violations, damage claims against the agencies for negligent injuries to people and for property damage, and worker's compensation claims;
- $623,043 to pay for executive leadership and administrative services to wildlife programs in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission;
- $21,697,449 to the Department of Agriculture ($5,000,000 of which was vetoed by the Governor) to pay for implementation of agricultural best management practices on non-conservation, privately owned  lands;
- $174,078,574  for salaries and overhead for personnel within the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Department of State;
- $838,570 for wildfire suppression vehicles for the Department of Agriculture;
- $5,000,000 to the Department of Agriculture to pay agricultural operations to keep their pollution on their own land;
- $38,575,538  to the Department of Environmental Protection that can be used to build sewage treatment plants and storm water treatment systems.
"We understand that many of these programs are important state programs, but they should not be funded by the conservation amendment funds," Fuller said. "They should be funded by other state revenue sources."
The Water and Land Conservation Amendment that voters passed in November, 2014 requires that, for the next 20 years, 33 percent of the proceeds from real estate documentary-stamp taxes go for land acquisition. It did not impose a new tax; the documentary-stamp tax has long funded Florida's conservation land-buying programs. For the upcoming year, the share of the real-estate tax is projected to bring in more than $740 million.
Because the case seeks an injunction to transfer surplus budget money into the Amendment 1 fund instead of invalidating existing appropriations, it would not stop any project that the Legislature has already funded. 
"We are hoping the court will correct the Legislature's mistake, and return money to the conservation land-buying fund, because that is what the voters directed," Fuller said. 


About Florida Wildlife Federation
The Florida Wildlife Federation is a private, statewide, non-profit citizens' conservation education organization composed of thousands of concerned Floridians and other citizens from all walks of life who have a common interest in preserving, managing, and improving Florida's fish, wildlife, soil, water, and plant life.

Monday, August 17, 2015

We should fear the fate of Florida's forest paths

Ox Bow Trail, Withlacoochee River
Citrus Springs, Florida
2015-08-04 (124)_HDR

We should fear the fate of Florida's forest paths and their loss to future generations if they are sold to the highest bidders and given over to special interests. These narrow ways through wild lands are foundational to this state's economic future. They lead to more than just the songs of bullfrogs and gator bellows and the staccato echoing screech of the limpkin in a river swamp. They lead us to our forefathers and theirs and the primordial connection between the human animals we are and where we and our ancestors came from. Forest paths take us back. That's why people love Florida and spend $76 billion a year here. They do not come for our malls, crowded asphalt toll ways, polluted waterways, phosphate mines, contaminant-belching power plants or center-pivot irrigation systems. They come for our forest paths to find themselves and discover a sense of their origins.

Who's the real socialist here?

A friend of mine who was a U. S. Marine Corps career officer, Vietnam war vet, helicopter pilot, fighter pilot, and Squadron and Group commander with the rank of Colonel at retirement is a very insightful man who shares his thoughts from time to time with others.  Consider his take on the idea that, "Democrats enjoy giving other people's money away."

It is so gratifying to realize there is still some good sense in this world that otherwise seems to have so little.

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Dear MP,

Your premise that Democrats enjoy taking the money of other people is seriously flawed. This is because Democrats recognize the fact that we are a society.  Those who benefit most from our society owe the most to society.  Please consider an example of just who it is taking the money of others. 

Image result for photos of mcdonaldsThe CEO of McDonalds makes $4,000.00 per hour.  He would not be receiving this remarkable wage rate if all the little people employees of McDonalds were not doing their jobs.  He also would not be fairing so well if his business was in the societies of Cuba or North Korea.  His employees and our society allow him to make more in one day than many make in one year.  Further, a recent study/analysis of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour would mean the cost of a $3.99 McDonalds'  burger would have to be raised to $4.17! 

Then consider, because he won't pay a living wage to his "little people" they require government subsidies that become an added burden on the U. S. tax payers.  So, the $4000 per hour CEO is taking the money of the taxpaying public to enrich himself. 

What would happen if he were to voluntarily raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.  Please consider that the price of his burger would go up a whopping 18 cents.  His employees would no longer require government subsidies.  The tax burden they once represented would disappear.  The deficit would be reduced.  They would spend the money they make.  The infusion of money would improve the economy.  The improved economy would cause the jobless rate to go down.  This would further reduce the burden on U. S. taxpayers and serve to further reduce the deficit.  Surely you would not object to this scenario. 

As GHW Bush so rightly claimed, the Reagan trickle down economics you mindlessly support is "Voodoo Economics."  It has had a devastating effect on our economy and our society in general. 

Semper Fi