House and Senate leaders declared Sunday that they had set aside $55 million for buying new public land from a ballot measure that was passed last year by 75 percent of state voters.
It wasn't until Monday that environmentalists realized lawmakers were planning to spend far less, setting up a likely legal showdown over what exactly Amendment 1 means.
The problem: The ballot measure, Amendment 1, dedicated more than $700 million for conservation and preservation. Environmentalists had hoped that lawmakers would approve at least $300 million to buy conservation and preservation lands.
Instead, lawmakers carved up the money for other projects, including millions for an agricultural giant.
Sponsors of Amendment 1 said the weekend agreement earmarks only $17.4 million for the acquisition of parks and wildlife habitat under the state program Florida Forever.
"This is an insult to the 4.2 million voters who voted Yes for Amendment 1," said Will Abberger, chairman of Florida Water and Land Legacy, the Amendment 1 sponsor committee. "Last November Florida voters sent a loud and clear message to the Legislature: make funding for conservation land acquisition a priority. The Legislature is ignoring Florida voters."
Abberger and Audubon of Florida executive director Eric Draper said they were exploring "all options," which they said could include legal action against the Legislature for violating the intent of Amendment 1.
Even one of the negotiators of the agreement, Senate Appropriations Chair Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said a legal challenge is certain.
"I'm not a lawyer, but in this world we live in today, I am confident of one thing and one thing only, and that is that there will be litigation," Lee said.