Florida County Stalls on Disbursing Choose Life Plate Funds

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 18, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Florida County Stalls on Disbursing Choose Life Plate Funds

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
July 18, 2003

Palm Beach, FL (LifeNews.com) — Palm Beach County has sold more Choose Life license plates in Florida than any other county, yet it is dragging its feet in dispersing the money to adoption agencies and abortion alternative organziations.

When the legislature passed the Choose Life plate bill, it said none of the $20 extra fee for the Choose Life plate could go to county administrative expenses. Because of this, Palm Beach County commissioners balked at picking up the tab and decided to hire an outside agency to be responsible for distributing the funds.

Approximately $76,000 is waiting to be distributed.

Last week, the commissioners decided against allowing Catholic Charities to disburse the funds. They claim the county would be sued by allowing a religious entity distribute public funds.

The county’s second choice is the United Way, but it too is causing controversy. The United Way may not be interested because it could not recoup its administrative expenses. Pro-life advocates say they’re concerned because some United Way agencies across the country allow donors to give money to Planned Parenthood.

Russ Amerling of Choose Life Inc., the group responsible for proposing the plate, says the whole thing is a "red herring."

Amerling, in a letter to the county obtained by LifeNews.com, said the county regularly distributes unfunded mandates and pass through funds from the state without complaint.

"If it is costing the county an inordinate amount of time and resources to manage the Choose Life license plate funds, it is not because of the language in the bill, it is because you are erecting so many impediments to the distribution," Amerling wrote.

While the county stalls, the amount of money to be disbursed is increasing. In August, the country will receive more funds from the Choose Life plate proceeds and nearly $125,000 will be available for adoption and abortion alternatives.

In 2001, four groups contacted the county about receiving money from the Coose Life plates. The favored Catholic Charities giving out the funds. At the time, no one complained and county attorneys said they had no concerns.

In 2002, a pro-abortion legal group sued to prevent the county from using Catholic Charities. The lawsuit was dismissed, but it caused county attorneys to seek a secular agency to disseminate the funds.

Nancy Monicatti, chief operating officer of Catholic Charities in Palm Beach County, told the Palm Beach Post that it doesn’t matter who distributes the funds because the same groups will be seeking the money.

Other counties, such as Martin, have decided to distribute the funds themselves. Amerling says Martin county distributed the funds within 30 days at very little cost to the county.