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Green Amendment on the ballot in November

Mar 21, 2021 5:45 am

Rick Karlin is reporting for the Times Union in November New York voters will decide whether the state constitution should be amended to include a right to clean air and water, as well as a “healthy environment." Getting that proposition on the ballot took years of pushing by environmental organizations, and puts the idea of a clean environment on the same level as other basic rights such as freedom of religion, trial by jury and freedom of speech. However, months ahead of the vote the proposal has become a source of debate, with opponents calling it a boon for trial lawyers and another obstacle to doing business in New York. Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, sees the amendment as a giveaway to New York’s politically powerful and trial lawyers who he says are constantly looking for new ways to pursue lucrative lawsuits. The Business Council of New York State also says its members fear the litigation and uncertainty over lawsuits that could result. But supporters say the fears are overblown and they note that court precedents will shape the contours of how these new rights, if approved, are enforced. Having the right to a healthy environment in the state constitution could “course correct” the history of putting polluting industries near or in disadvantaged communities, said Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. Specifically, the amendment if passed would say that "Each person shall have a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.” The National Caucus of Environmental Legislators explains this is different from the Green New Deal, the national public works program that some federal lawmakers have called for. Pennsylvania and Montana both have similar amendments in their bills of rights and other state legislatures are considering constitutional amendments. Ultimately, it will be up to the voters in New York to decide, said Blair Horner, executive director of NYPIRG, which favors the amendment. “It’s not a done deal until it goes to the voters,” he said. Read more in the Times Union.

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