On Thursday, the Supreme Court approved the Water and Land Conservation Amendment for placement on the ballot. According to the ballot summary, the amendment would fund

“the Land Acquisition Trust Fund 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.”

The Florida Constitution permits amendment by ballot initiative. Once a proposed amendment sponsor has registered as a political committee, submitted the title, substance, and text of an amendment to the Secretary of State, and has obtained 10 percent of the total signatures required to place the proposed amendment on a ballot, the Secretary of State is required to submit an initiative petition to the Attorney General, who is then required to request an advisory opinion from the Supreme Court as to whether the proposed amendment complies with s. 3, Art XI of the Constitution and s. 101.161, Florida Statutes. Sections 15.21 and 16.061, Fla. Stat.

The Supreme Court is then tasked with determining whether the amendment addresses one subject, and whether the ballot title and summary are fair and do not mislead the public. The Court must also decide whether the required financial impact statement is clear and does not exceed a seventy-five word limit. In this case the Court found that the Water and Land Conservation Amendment meets the single subject requirement as it only addresses the percentage of documentary tax revenue devoted to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, and it does not substantially alter the functions of multiple branches of government. The Court also concluded that the title, summary, and financial impact statement all meet the statutory requirements.

The next step for the sponsor will be to obtain a sufficient number of petition signatures to place the initiative on the ballot.

Water and Land Conservation Constitutional Amendment Approved for Placement on the Ballot

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