In his opening-day speech, Senate President Joe Negron dashed past the strike-all filed moments earlier in his southern Everglades reservoir bill. But lawmakers shouldn’t be fooled. They might want to pump the brakes, crack the hood and take a closer look at this sneaky little amendment.
If I’m reading it right, Negron and Rep. Rob Bradley, who introduced Senate Bill 10, just snatched $3.3 billion from Florida Forever and stowed it in the bonding pot for Negron’s restructured Senate Bill 10, now called “Coast-to-Coast Comprehensive Water Resources Program.”
What you want to do is look at the new bill. First, check out Line 167-171: “The issuance of water resource protection and development bonds, not to exceed $3.3 billion to finance or refinance the cost of acquisition and improvement of land …”
Where did that come from? How did $2.4 billion turn into $3.3 billion?
That’s the first thing.
So now let’s skip down to Lines 232-235: “The issuance of Florida Forever bonds, not to exceed ….”
Here’s where $5.3 billion is crossed out in red, and “$2 billion” is written in. There we are, we found our $3.3 billion.
The sentence now reads, “The issuance of Florida Forever bonds, not to exceed $2 billion, to finance or refinance the cost of acquisition and improvement of land, water areas and related property interests and resources …” It goes on.
How are the citizens of Florida going to feel when they realize Negron raided Florida Forever like Clyde Barrow raided Texas Savings and Loan — all for a reckless plan that has no federal partner.
Florida Forever and Amendment 1 might have the same DNA, but the sources of their funding make them different animals. Amendment 1 calls for protecting land and water from development using one-third of the funds raised by the state’s documentary stamp tax on real-estate transactions.
Where Florida Forever money goes isn’t for a Senate president to decide.
It is funding appropriated by the Legislature and distributed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to a number of state agencies and programs to purchase public lands in the form of parks, trails, forests, wildlife management areas and more. All of these lands are held in trust for the citizens of Florida.
It seems to me, before $3.3 billion of Florida Forever money gets dumped into SB 10, the whole Legislature — not just the Senate president and one of his top lieutenants — should vote on it. It should be an act separate from SB 10. All Floridians are stakeholders in Florida Forever. All Floridians should have the opportunity to be heard.