Florida Lawmakers ask Court to Dismiss ‘Amendment 1’ Funding Case

Randall Weiseman Ag "Outdoors", Florida, General, Industry News Release

From News Service of Florida:

news service florida logoState lawmakers want a judge to toss out a lawsuit that contends they defied a constitutional mandate on spending money for land and water conservation. Lawyers for House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, argued in a motion filed Tuesday in Leon County circuit court that the allocation of voter-approved “Amendment 1” dollars is at the discretion of the Legislature.

“Plaintiffs might dislike and disagree with the Legislature’s spending decisions, but mere dislike and disagreement do not entitle plaintiffs to declaratory and injunctive relief,” the lawmakers’ motion said.

The Legislature also argued that the four environmental groups behind the lawsuit ignore “the separation of powers” by calling for the court to order state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater to transfer $237 million from the General Revenue Fund to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, which is used to carry out Amendment 1. The dollar amount is the total the environmental groups — the Florida Wildlife Federation, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and the Sierra Club — contend was misspent by lawmakers.

The case stems from voter approval in November of Amendment 1, which requires spending a portion of a state real-estate tax on land and water conservation efforts. The environmentalists allege in the lawsuit that a budget approved by the Legislature in June improperly diverts portions of the conservation money to such expenses as staffing — an allegation that legislative leaders dispute.