A bill revamping the state’s process of public land acquisition and management passed its first Senate committee Tuesday.
LobbyTools reports that SB 1290, filed by Trilby Republican Sen. Wilton Simpson is nearly identical to House equivalent, HB 1075, filed by Lehigh Acres Republican Rep. Matt Caldwell.
Orlando Democratic Sen. Darren Soto submitted an amendment to strip language that would allow “an expansion of use of land acquisition dollars, Amendment 1 dollars, on water projects.”
Although opposing a similar bill last year, Eric Draper of Audubon Florida supports Soto’s amendment. The original language put forth by the Department of Environmental Protection “stands outside the original purpose for which the bill was introduced.”
DEP General Counsel Robert Williams told senators that using land acquisition money on water projects allows “[DEP] flexibility while we are looking at protecting springs, protecting other areas,” in addition to “other tools to our toolbox.”
LobbyTools also noted that Soto withdrew his amendment after receiving assurances the DEP is willing to work new language that would ensure a “nexus” between using land conservation funds for water projects and for actual land preservation.
Also raising concern was Stephanie Kunkel of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, who did not appreciate combining water project spending and changes to land management regulations to promote “recreation or conservation,” as opposed to “the purpose for which it was acquired.”