Amendment 1 was supposed to help to save the Everglades.
Instead, it is becoming somewhat like the Everglades.
That is, the money that voters authorized in 2014 for spending for conservation lands to reboot the gutted Florida Forever program is being diverted in ways that resemble the way South Florida water management system diverts water the Everglades needs to satisfy the political demands of agriculture and development interests.
Ever since voters overwhelming approved the measure, the Florida Legislature has worked hard to make sure it isn’t used as the voters or the amendment’s sponsors intended, falling back on legalistic arguments about the ballot language’s loose wording.
So, instead of working to take care of the backlog of high-priority conservation purchases in this part of the state along the Lake Wales Ridge, the Green Swamp and the Kissimmee River Valley, legislators are proposing to use the money for beach renourishment to keep the tourism industry happy and for a variety of water supply projects to keep the development industry happy.
The Legislature has also allowed state agencies to use Amendment 1 money for routine operating expenses, which is not only inappropriate, but short-sighted.
This is a problem because with the economy improving and development pressure ramping up again, the owners of some of the land targeted for conservation purchase and protection may get tired of waiting for the state to act and sell the land to someone else.
In addition, as the real estate market heats up again, the cost of the land will increase because its market value will increase, which will affect how far the conservation acquisition dollars go.
Some legislators are treating the Amendment 1 money as though it was part of the general appropriations fund that can be used for anything rather than restricted fund that’s only supposed to be spent on certain things.
This kind of financial deceit is nothing new in Tallahassee, but it’s usually not this blatant.
If legislators want funds to improve water infrastructure or any other worthwhile public project in Florida, why don’t they take a more honest approach and come up with a logical funding source that has some rational nexus rather than raiding another state fund for the sake of expediency.
It’s hard to characterize this as anything but grand theft.
Most people who get caught doing this are sent to jail, not to Tallahassee.
Maybe Florida needs another constitutional amendment to fix that problem, too.