A Tallahassee judge on Thursday rejected attempts by the Florida Legislature to dismiss a lawsuit accusing lawmakers of violating the constitution by misspending $237 million in money in Amendment 1 funds intended for water and land conservation.
Leon County Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds ruled from the bench that the lawsuit filed by the the Florida Wildlife Federation, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and the Sierra Club could continue.
But he dismissed a second prong of their complaint which attempted to have the court compel Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater to shift funds from the general revenue fund into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to replace the errant spending.
Florida voters approved Amendment 1 in November 2014, setting aside 33 percent of the proceeds from the real estate documentary stamp tax go into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to protect fragile wetlands, springs and other environmentally sensitive areas.
But challengers say that legislators stripped $237 million of those funds to pay for other projects not intended by voters and they want the court to call them on it now to prevent repeating the mistake in the next budget year. The funds from documentary stamps on land transactions are expected to reach $740 million next year.