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Legislature tries avoiding lawsuit over Amendment 1

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Legislature wants to stop a land and water lawsuit before it has the chance to make a splash. Five environmental groups sued the state in June after a battle over Amendment 1 funding.

Seventy percent of voters approved Amendment 1 last fall.

David Guest, the managing attorney at Earth Justice, one of the groups in the lawsuit, said voters supported the amendment because they want environmental protections, but the Legislature is ignoring voters' wishes with the way it allocated money.

"What this case is about is fulfilling the wishes of three quarters of Florida voters," Guest said.

Legislative attorneys said the courts can't tell lawmakers how to spend public money.

Attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit last week. The Senate president's office referred to the motion made by attorneys.

State Rep. Steve Crisafulli responded in a statement saying, "The House filed a motion to dismiss because we faithfully implemented Article X, Section 28 of the Florida Constitution."

Guest doesn't agree.

"The Constitution says how that money is supposed to be spent," Guest said. "The Legislature does not have the power to say the Constitution doesn't apply to them.

He said the ultimate decision will most likely come from a higher level.

"This case is going to the state Supreme Court without a doubt," Guest said.

He said the lawsuit is meant to clarify exactly what the Legislature can fund with the money. They had around $700 million to spend this year, with a majority going toward agency operations and not land buying.