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In Polk, voters pass a land conservation property tax as Republicans sweep

Congressman Scott Franklin serves the citizens of Florida’s 15th Congressional District.
Rep. Scott Franklin's Office
Republican Scott Franklin won reelection to the U.S. House in District 16.

Colleen Burton will return to the state Senate and will be joined by fellow Republican Ben Albritton in representing Polk residents. Meantime, Scott Franklin won reelection to Congress.

Polk County voters passed a property tax dedicated to purchasing and preserving land for conservation, restarting a program originally approved by voters in 1994.

Owners will pay 20 cents for every $1,000 of a property's taxable value, bringing in about $300 million for land acquisition and preservation.

The property tax initially ran from 1995 until 2015, and previously provided the county with over $80 million that was earmarked for preserving properties such as the popular Circle B Bar Preserve and Lakeland Highlands Scrub.

Tom Palmer, a board member with Polk Forever, says the funding will help the county fill in the gaps between preserved lands that were previously acquired.

"This time, instead of only buying land, this referendum will also allow Polk County to purchase conservation easements," Palmer said.

Palmer hopes private landowners will be willing to help further strengthen the Florida wildlife corridor.

The tax will be focused on preserving four key areas: the Green Swamp, Polk County Highlands, Upper Kissimmee Basin and Peace River.

Also, four-year term representative Colleen Burton defeated Democrat Veysel Dokur for the Florida Senate's District 12 seat, which covers northern Polk , Lakeland and Winter Haven.

Burton will be joined by fellow Republican Ben Albritton, who easily defeated Christopher Proia with 71 percent of the vote. Albritton will represent District 27, which represents southern Polk, Hardee, DeSoto and Charlotte counties along with parts of Lee.

Republican Scott Franklin won reelection in his U.S. House District 16 race, defeating Keith Hayden.

Here are the results in key elections:


State Senate

District 12:

  • Burton, Colleen  (REP) - 63.17%
  • Dokur, Veysel  (DEM) - 36.83%

District 27:

  • Albritton Jr., Ben  (REP) - 71.24%
  • Proia, Christopher  (DEM) - 28.76%

County Commissioner, District 4

  • Martha Santiago (REP) - 65.98%
  • Markeishia Smith (DEM) - 34.02%

School Board, District 7

  • Lisa Miller - 56.56%
  • Jill Sessions - 34.02%

County Referendum

Acquisition and Management of Water Resources and Environmental Lands

To acquire, preserve, protect, manage, or restore, water resources, environmental lands and important fish and wildlife habitat.

For: 58.42%
Against: 41.58%

My main role for WUSF is to report on climate change and the environment, while taking part in NPR’s High-Impact Climate Change Team. I’m also a participant of the Florida Climate Change Reporting Network.