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NFC: Fw: Legislative Update on Raiding of Preservation Funds

Following is a letter I received this week through The Nature Conservancy after contacting them regarding the Senate's reallocation of P2000 funds.  I have included some additional information from a Gainesville Sun editorial (March 28, 2001) opposing the Senate's action.  I hope this is of interest to you, and that you will follow up with contacting your state senator and representative..
I also encourage you to share this information with any of your friends and colleagues that are interested in conservation in our state.
Ann Bryan

TO: Preservation 2000 and Florida Forever Supporters

FROM: Katherine Anderws, Sue Mullins, Marianne Gengenbach and Ann Bryan

DATE: March 30, 2001




On Thursday, March 29, the full Florida Senate approved taking $100 million of the Florida’s Preservation 2000 (P2000) program’s remaining funds to pay the state’s share of Everglades restoration in Fiscal Year 2002. They then took the general fund money that had been set aside for Everglades restoration and allocated it to education and human services programs. In effect, the Senate took $100 million out of environmental programs and gave it to other state programs. This was done with very little opportunity for public input or comment.

The House of Representatives and its Speaker, Tom Feeney, have opposed this measure so far, and the House is expected to hold that position when they debate their budget. However, this means that when the two chambers meet in Conference Committee this week to work out their differences, the Legislature will need to know the public’s opposition to this unprecedented raid on Florida’s conservation funds.

Several legislators have publicly stated that they have not heard overwhelming opposition from the environmental community. It is vitally important for them to know that their constituents oppose this unprecedented raid on Florida’s conservation funds.

There is very little time to reverse this devastating attack on Florida’s environment. Conference committee members will be appointed the week of April 2 and begin meeting on Wednesday, April 4. Please act now!!

What You Can Do

Write, call, fax, or e-mail House Speaker Tom Feeney to object to the raid on P2000 funds and ask him to support the Governor’s promise. Contact Rep. Feeney at: Room 420, The Capitol, 402 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300, Phone (850) 488-1450 Fax (850)488-1456 or send e-mails to feeney.tom at leg_state.fl.us

Write, call, fax or e-mail Senate President McKay to object to the raid on P2000 funds. Contact Sen. McKay at: Office of the Senate President, Suite 409, The Capitol, 404 South Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100, (850) 487-5229, Fax (850) 487-5486, or send e-mails to mckay.john.web at leg_state.fl.us.

Write, call, fax and e-mail your state representative and senator and urge them to support the Governor’s position in the conference process. For information about how to contact your representative or senator, go to http://www.leg.state.fl.us. Follow the prompt to their name(s), then click on their name to bring up a "bio" page which includes their phone number and e-mail address. You can also call 1-800-342-1827. Often, their local numbers are listed in the "blue" pages of the phone book as well.

Write letters to newspapers expressing your views.

Once the conference process begins, it is likely that the final compromise will not be reached until close to the end of the legislative session. It is very important that you keep on making your opinions known throughout the month of April, so don’t be afraid to make repeated contact with legislators, reiterating the importance of this issue to Floridians. You can reference your first contact and ask if things have been "fixed" yet. The more they hear from you, the less likely they are to "forget" as the process winds on!

Why this is a Devastating Blow to Florida’s Environment

For 10 years, the P2000 Program has financed the acquisition of conservation, recreation and water resource lands throughout Florida. All of the remaining P2000 balance is needed for completing specific land acquisition projects over the next 8 months. By withdrawing these funds, these lands may not be acquired. Thousands of acres will never be conserved. When they enacted P2000, the Florida Legislature made a promise to Floridians to preserve Florida’s imperiled lands and waters. For 10 years they kept that promise, but the Senate broke it March 29th by raiding P2000 funds. The Senate has acted against the will of the people.

Using P2000 funds to fund the state’s share of Everglades Restoration breaks another promise – the promise the Legislature made to fund Florida’s share of Everglades restoration from general revenues for 10 years. This sends a terrible mess to the U.S. Congress that Florida’s funding commitment to the Everglades is not certain and, thus, jeopardizes federal funding and the entire Everglades restoration agreement.

Funding for the environment amounts to only 3 percent of the state budget. The Senate’s raid on environmental funds sets the precedent that the environment is not important to Florida’s future and that the Legislature, without public input or comment, can grab already insufficient environmental funding and use it for other purposes.

Who is in Favor and Who is Against This Proposal

The raid on P2000 was taken with the full support of Senate President John McKay and Finance Committee Chair Jim Horne.

Governor Bush strongly opposes this action. Bush noted in a letter trying to persuade Senate President John McKay to leave the land fund alone: "Our conservation land-acquisition programs are a model for the nation, vital to preserving environmentally sensitive lands and provide permanence to ensure a continued quality of life for our residents and visitors."

House Speaker Tom Feeney has opposed it so far.

Senators Lawson, Laurent, and Saunders have spoken strongly against the proposal. (Senator Lawson, D-Tallahassee, stated raiding the preservation fund is "a breach of contract with the citizens of Florida". The amendment creating the fund passed overwhelmingly.)