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The Bellone administration, which promised environmentalists last year it would never try to undo a pine barrens law approved by referendum without seeking another public vote, may end up keeping its promise despite recent efforts to the contrary.
That’s because the Appellate Division rejected the administration’s bid to appeal a unanimous decision throwing out a 2011 move by former County Executive Steve Levy and the legislature to divert $30-million from Suffolk’s pine barrens program to plug a budget hole, without getting voter approval.
The county attorney had sought to appeal the ruling, even though Bellone himself last year put forward a bill promising never to change voter-approved pine barrens legislation without a new referendum. He put forward the law, endorsed by voters last November, as part of a $29.4 million settlement of a lawsuit over his own administration’s attempt to shift pine barrens money.
County attorney Dennis Brown said the administration has not yet made a decision whether to seek permission directly from the Court of Appeals to reverse the appellate ruling in the Levy case.
Dick Amper, director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, said, “Last year, the appellate court said Levy was wrong. Last week, the appellate court said Bellone is wrong. The people are right -- they want their money spent on clean water.”