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Amidst Lawsuits, Florida Lawmakers Still Underfund Conservation

Sherry Spearman

Florida lawmakers are not budgeting enough money for land conservation, as required under a constitutional amendment voters approved two years ago.

Former Florida Gov. and Sen. Bob Graham campaigned for Amendment 1 and says he’s disappointed at legislative proposals for the second year in a row.

Graham says it’s frustrating that getting the constitutional amendment passed wasn’t enough to ensure money is set aside for conservation land purchases.

“I’ve said, not just facetiously, that maybe we ought to repeal the first three words of the Florida Constitution, which are ‘We the People,” he said in an interview at WJCT Studios Wednesday.

He says that’s because, “Whatever the people say is ignored.”

Seventy-five-percent of voters approved the amendment that guarantees a third of a specific tax revenue must be spent on environmental conservation and restoration. But in both House and Senate spending plans,“We are about or maybe slightly below the very inadequate funding from last year,” Graham says.

Two lawsuits aimed at declaring the state budget unconstitutional are working their way through the courts. Graham says he’s also hopeful lawmakers will add conservation money before session ends in mid-March.

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP