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Hearing In Conservation Amendment 1 Lawsuit Set For December

Peter Haden

A lawsuit alleging the Florida Legislature improperly used funds meant for buying conservation land could be expedited.

Circuit Judge Charles Dodson of Tallahassee scheduled a hearing Friday. If Dodson grants a summary judgment motion, conservation groups could get a verdict as soon as the Dec. 5 hearing.

More than two years ago, 75 percent of Florida voters passed a constitutional conservation Amendment 1 mandating lawmakers set aside 1/3 of the money from a real estate tax for conservation.

The Legislature interpreted that to mean money could be spent on wastewater projects, state employee salaries and sewer upgrades.

But St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman and the other plaintiffs said that wasn't the intent of voters.

“Sadly, the Legislature has misappropriated those dedicated funds that were approved by the voters, and we believe that’s a constitutional violation, and so this summary judgement will allow us to present the evidence to have a very quick decision made,” she said.

The Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation and other groups also argue the funds should be spent only on buying new conservation land through the state’s Florida Forever program.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.