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Fla. lawmakers seek how to spend environmental protection money

Floridians want state to devote money to environmental preservation

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – You probably voted for it, and now lawmakers have to figure out how to spend guaranteed environmental protection money. They're looking for public input from a surging population.

It wasn't close when voters passed Amendment 1, as 75 percent of Floridians said they wanted the state to devote money to environmental preservation. Now how exactly do we do it?

"I think that the public should have an input because the public overwhelmingly supported the Amendment 1 issue," said Sen. Greg Evers.

A Senate environmental panel introduced a website devoted to public input this week. There's around $700 million to spend this year alone because the amendment is tied to a property tax in the state.

Environmental groups like the Florida Audubon said that the growing population means the money is more important now than ever. Gov. Rick Scott is sending a strong message and a promise of low taxes.

"People of California, Pennsylvania and New York ... move to Florida," Scott said.

Julie Wraithmell, with the Florida Audubon, said the guaranteed protection money is key.

"If we talk about attracting the best and the brightest, in order to be competitive for those workers in Florida, they need to have a good quality of life, they need to be able to know their kids will be able to fish and swim safely in Florida waters," Wraithmell said.

While legislators figure out whether to devote most of the money toward land acquisition or water cleanup, what's not debatable is that Floridians knew what they wanted.

"I feel like that they know exactly what they were expecting and I assure you we will give them the protections that they asked for," Evers said.

Florida had the largest land-buying program in America before the recession when funding was eliminated. The lack of spending prompted the amendment to be passed.

If you want to make your voice heard on Amendment 1, go to the Florida Senate's website.