Florida Local News

Lawmakers Plan to Allocate Funds from Gambling Revenue to Finance Environmental Initiatives

Lawmakers Plan to Allocate Funds from Gambling Revenue to Finance Environmental Initiatives

Legislative leaders have reached an agreement to allocate a substantial amount of gambling revenue toward funding the expansion of a state wildlife corridor and other environmental initiatives.

Last week, the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee and the House Infrastructure Strategies Committee both gave their approval to matching bills (SB 1638 and HB 1417) that include funding for the wildlife corridor, a key initiative of Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples.

Furthermore, the bills allocate $100 million annually for upland management and invasive species removal, as well as $100 million for a flooding and sea-level rise resilience plan by the Department of Environmental Protection.

A significant portion of the funding for the bill would be sourced from a gambling agreement, or “compact,” that was established by Gov. Ron DeSantis with the Seminole Tribe of Florida in 2021.

However, the bills also allocate $150 million in state general revenue to the South Florida Water Management District for its operations and maintenance duties. The bill directs the district to partner with the Water School at Florida Gulf Coast University to conduct a study on Lake Okeechobee issues.

Terrorist Attack In The Future; Florida Sheriff Says All Because of Border Crisis

According to House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, the district is facing “significant environmental issues.”

In 2021, the Legislature ratified a gambling deal that permits the Seminole Tribe to offer online sports betting statewide and introduce games like craps at its casinos. The tribe agreed to pay $2.5 billion to the state in the initial five years, with the potential for billions more over the thirty-year agreement.

Legal disputes regarding sports betting led to delays in finalizing the agreement, but the tribe has now made progress. The tribe made a payment of almost $58 million to the state as part of the revenue-sharing deal following the launch of mobile sports betting by the Seminoles in November.

Passidomo emphasized the importance of the legislation during the Jan. 9 opening day of the legislative session, stating that the investments preserve working farmland and ranchland, enable strategic expansion of the wildlife corridor, and aid in protecting endangered native species, such as the Florida panther.

Florida To Soon Get a Short-Term Rentals Regulation Law

The corridor aims to link 18 million acres of publicly owned land and agricultural properties from the Florida Keys to the Panhandle. Approximately 8 million acres are still unsecured.

“I know everybody has heard (Passidomo) talk about it on the Senate floor and several times when you’ve approached her,” Senate bill sponsor Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, said last week. “I feel privileged to be the one to hold it for her, knowing how much effort and dedication she has poured into it.”

The bill allocates $79 million for water-quality improvement grants and $4 million for the Department of Environmental Protection to establish a local trail management grant program, among other provisions.

In 2014, voters approved a constitutional amendment mandating a portion of money from documentary-stamp taxes on real-estate transactions to be allocated for conservation efforts. According to Chairman James Buchanan, R-Osprey, the funds in this year’s bills are considered additional to the money approved by voters.

In recent years, lawmakers have allocated the documentary-stamp tax money for various projects, including sending approximately $200 million annually to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, $50 million to the state’s natural springs, and $50 million to the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *