Today, the Florida State Senate President and Florida House Speaker filed an appeal requesting the overturning of a ruling last month that they had diverted money that was supposed to be spent on new public land acquisition and restoration. The ruling was in response to litigation brought by conservation organizations. Three out of four Florida voters approved a ballot initiative that amended the state constitution to require a portion of proceeds from the existing real estate transaction tax go to protecting new public lands, yet the legislature spent much of the preservation funds on other things. The judge had ruled that, moving forward, the state had to comply with the will of the voters.
Statements in response from plaintiffs who sued to require the legislators to comply with the constitutional amendment:
Alisa Coe, Plaintiffs’ Attorney from Earthjustice who represents Florida Wildlife Federation, St. Johns Riverkeeper, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, Sierra Club, and Manley Fuller: “This appeal is an attack on the most important conservation victory in Florida in years. The facts are on our side. The will of the people is very clear from the passage of the constitutional amendment. It’s disappointing that the state’s political leaders are spending the taxpayers’ money to fight what the taxpayers want. Time is critical here. Every day we spend debating this in court is another day we lose the opportunity to protect more land in Florida.”
Manley Fuller, Plaintiff and President of Florida Wildlife Federation: “The ruling should be upheld through the appeals process. The ruling would provide funding for the purchase of important conservation lands that protect watersheds and connect habitats from the Panhandle to the Keys.”
Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director: “House Speaker Corcoran and Senate President Negron are fighting against the clear mandate from Florida voters. The fate of Florida’s environment is at stake in this court case.”
Lisa Rinaman, St. Johns Riverkeeper: “This appeal was filed to further block the conservation of many natural places in Florida. Protecting land is critical to the health of our rivers and our springs and is also needed to make Florida more resilient to hurricanes and flooding.”
Becky Ayech, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida: “We hope the court upholds the ruling. The ruling was 100% justified. The leaders of the Florida House and Senate must stop diverting funds the voters said should be spent on land conservation.”