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Amendment 1 Framework Almost Done

Florida Senate

Lawmakers moved a step closer Wednesday to dividing up more than $750 million to meet the conservation demands of Amendment 1. The House and Senate are on a collision course over affordable housing and its piece of the pie.

House and Senate leaders are just beginning to decide where the Amendment 1 money goes and the progress can be glacial. The first step in most legislative spending plans is opening an empty bank account, or trust fund, to be filled with piles of cash later.

Alan Hays, chairman of General Government Appropriations, describes it this way.

“Here we have a realignment, if you will, of the post office boxes, if you will, that we are plugging the various moneys into.”

But by attaching percentages to the post office boxes, major decisions are already made.

Affordable housing drinks from the same tax stream, documentary stamps, as Amendment 1. The Senate plan robs housing programs of $112 million. Jaimie Ross, president of the Florida Housing Coalition, says the Senate is crossing builders, Realtors and chambers of commerce.

“There’s a tremendous constituency out there. The entire Sadowski Coalition, which basically represents everybody in the state of Florida that wants to see housing not hurt by the way Amendment 1 is implemented.”

Advocates are sounding the alarm too early, Hays insists.

“That’s yet to be determined.”

Senate President Andy Gardiner promises the money will put back during budget negotiations. His spokeswoman, Katie Betta:

“During the appropriations process the Legislature will have to consider that impact.

Committee member Thad Altman, a Republican from Viera, says voters didn’t do affordable housing any favors by locking in 33 percent of the tax.

“Affordable housing and conservation were two components of the doc stamps and had those numbers not been messed with, this all would have taken care of itself.”

The House outline doesn’t touch affordable housing money. But it makes changes some environmentalists question. Janet Bowman, a lobbyist for The Nature Conservancy, says it shifts money from state land and timber sales away from land management and into a super trust fund.

“So it could be used for Everglades, or beach re nourishment or, you know, any Amendment 1 purchase.”

Meanwhile, the process creeps on. Both the Senate and House plans have one more committee stop before reaching the floor.

Clarification: Jaimie Ross, president of the Florida Housing Coalition, did not use the term “rob” to describe a proposed $112 million cut in affordable housing.