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Former Environmental Secretary Sees Lawmaker 'Hostility' Toward Land Acquisition

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Florida voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 1 last November. The citizen-led initiative is also known as the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment. It sets aside 33 percent of the revenue from documentary stamps - a real estate transaction fee - for the next 20 years to fund environmental protection.

The fees are worth $750 million next year. But the Florida Legislature is dragging its feet on setting rules to divvy up the funds.

“This Legislature has demonstrated its hostility toward land acquisition for conservation and environmental purposes,” says Victoria Tschinkel, former Florida environmental secretary. She served in the 1980's under Gov. Bob Graham.

At first, it seemed as though the Legislature was ready to carry out the amendment as the legislative session began March 3.

“I think there was definitely good intent among a very few legislators,” Tschinkel says.

Now?

"The Legislature is taking normal agency operating costs - which they have been regularly funding," Tschinkel says, "and pretending that they’re properly supporting Amendment 1 by taking those personnel and other operating costs and using Amendment 1 dollars to fund them.”

Lawmakers have discretion over how to appropriate the funding for the amendment, and they could go a long time without enacting any rules. “The Legislature hates being told what to do by the voters,” Tschinkel says. “We were serious when we passed Amendment 1, and they better be serious, too. That’s the only way democracy works."

Tschinkel has spent her career working on environmental policy. She shared her insights into the Amendment 1 holdup with WLRN's Gina Jordan in Tallahassee.