Florida’s conservation community received a slight setback this week when an appeals court reversed last year’s circuit court ruling that the Florida Legislature’s spending of land conservation funds was unconstitutional.
The court case involves the implementation of a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2014 that was intended to provide the funding to restart the Florida Forever program to finish purchasing state conservation lands.
The suit by a number of conservation groups including Sierra Club alleges legislators diverted money intended for conservation land acquisition and management to cover day-to-day agency expenses that would normally be funded from other revenues.
But while Monday’s ruling reversed part of last year’s court judgement, it left open a further examination of the propriety of the Florida Legislature’s funding decisions.
The ruling struck down a conclusion that the money authorized by the amendment could only be used for lands acquired after 2015, the unanimous ruling added “By our ruling we do not speak to the legality of the appropriations since enactment of Article X, section 28, a question which remains pending, “ adding” the cause is remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings. ”
That appears to give Sierra and other plaintiffs another shot at arguing for mores responsible funding decisions by legislators. It also involves Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet, who oversee the executive and cabinet agencies also named in the lawsuit.
This isn’t over yet.