Rehearing rejected in conservation funding case

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A Leon County circuit judge has rejected the state’s request for rehearing in a battle about whether lawmakers properly carried out a 2014 constitutional amendment that required spending on land and water conservation.

Judge Charles Dodson on Monday issued a three-page order turning down the rehearing request. Dodson last month ruled that lawmakers had failed to properly comply with the voter-approved constitutional amendment, which required using money from a real-estate tax to bolster land and water conservation.

Environmental groups filed legal challenges against the state, contending that lawmakers had diverted portions of the money to other expenses.

The rehearing issue focused, at least in part, on the consolidation of cases filed by the Florida Defenders of the Environment and the Florida Wildlife Federation.

Dodson last month ruled in favor of both groups, but the state argued in its request for rehearing that he should not have dealt with the issues raised by the Florida Wildlife Federation.

In the order Monday, however, Dodson rejected that argument. “These cases were consolidated at the request of defendants (the state),” Dodson wrote. “Their motion to consolidate was filed August 19, 2016. In it, they vigorously argued consolidation was necessary to avoid inconsistent results in the two cases. I agree. The motion for rehearing is denied.”

Dodson last week also denied a request from the state that he be disqualified from the case.