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Fast Track Rejected In Conservation Funding Case

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Alachua County Environmental Conservation
The Florida Channel
Conservation groups in Florida want a funding case to be fast-tracked in the courts.

An appeals court this week turned down a request by environmental groups to quickly move a major conservation-funding case to the Florida Supreme Court.

Attorneys for the state House and Senate last month appealed a Leon County circuit judge’s ruling that said lawmakers did not properly carry out a 2014 constitutional amendment that requires spending on land and water conservation.

Environmental groups, which began the legal battle in 2015, asked the 1st District Court of Appeal to “certify” the case to the Supreme Court --- a request that could bypass the usual appellate review and go to the Supreme Court.

But the 1st District Court of Appeal on Wednesday denied the request.

“This litigation began in 2015 and involves appropriations that expired two years ago,” the appeals court said. “No immediacy exists, and the normal appellate process is adequate; to the extent a true exigency arises, the appellate process in this (1st District) Court can be expedited upon a proper showing.”

The 2014 voter-approved constitutional amendment requires using money from a real-estate tax to bolster land and water conservation.

The Florida Wildlife Federation and the Florida Defenders of the Environment filed legal challenges contending that lawmakers had improperly diverted portions of the money to other expenses.

Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson last month ruled in favor of the groups, prompting the state to appeal.