One of the state’s leading business lobbies is cheering the defeat of a proposed constitutional amendment that would have expanded the right to bring environmental-related lawsuits.
“This unnecessary proposal would have opened up not only Florida businesses, but private citizens as well, to endless litigation and harmful uncertainty,” said Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs Brewster Bevis in a statement.
The language as filed said, “The natural resources of the state are the legacy of present and future generations. Every person has a right to a clean and healthful environment, including clean air and water; control of pollution; and the conservation and restoration of the natural, scenic, historic, and aesthetic values of the environment as provided by law.”
The last sentence caused the most consternation: “Any person may enforce this right against any party, public or private, subject to reasonable limitations, as provided by law.”
Its enforcement provision, however, was later amended to say that “a resident of this state, not including a corporation, may enforce this right.”
“With the Judicial Committee’s vote today, Florida’s comprehensive, thoughtfully crafted environmental policy will remain intact, continuing to protect the rights of Floridians and provide much-needed regulatory certainty and stability for businesses moving forward,” Bevis said. “(P)roposals such as this do not belong in the Florida Constitution.”
On Thursday, Sen. Denise Grimsley, a Lake Placid Republican, also opposed the proposal. She wrote a letter to the committee saying it would “undermine environmental gains and rolls out a red carpet to the court system for anyone with an ax to grind, regardless of legal standing or science.”
“Imagine the unintended consequences of freezing permitting processes and clogging the courts with challenges that could paralyze the ability of farms – and all small businesses for that matter – from operating with any shred of predictability,” said Grimsley, chair of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee and a candidate for state Agriculture Commissioner.
Commissioner Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, a CRC appointee of Senate President Joe Negron, filed the language. Both are from Martin County.
In a November meeting, Commissioner Arthenia Joyner – a former Senate Democratic Leader – noted there’s already a right to sue in the state’s Environmental Protection Act.