One of Florida’s largest business lobbying organizations is trying to stop a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution that ensures that “every person has a right to a clean and healthful environment.” The group claims the proposal is “dangerously vague” and would threaten decades of Florida environmental policy.

Associated Industries of Florida announced it has retained a legal team to fight the Florida Constitution Revision Commission’s Proposal 23. AIF says if the proposal is put on the ballot next year and approved by voters, it would allow “any person, not just Floridians, the ability to litigate ‘against any party, public or private’ if they feel their right to a ‘clean and healthful’ environment is threatened.”

“CRC Proposal 23 would no doubt cause more harm than good to our state. This vague amendment would effectively replace the comprehensive and well thought out regulatory system we have in place today with a piecemeal approach that is decided on a case-by-case basis by the courts,” said AIF President and CEO Tom Feeney.

The proposal would add the following paragraph to Section 7 of Article II to the Constitution:

(c) 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. Any person may enforce this right against any party, public or private, subject to reasonable limitations, as provided by law.   

 -CRC Proposal 23

In a release issued Tuesday morning, AIF claims the wording of the proposal is vague and would be left wide-open to legal interpretation by the courts. The business organization says it would create “mass uncertainty” and threaten “to upend the work of manufacturers, small businesses, governments and many others across the state.”

AIF claims the proposed amendment would open the door to legal challenges against government entities, businesses, or even private citizens. The group says the proposal encourages frivolous environmental lawsuits that could threaten future economic development in Florida.

AIF argues that the protection of natural resources is already included in Article II, Section 7(a), of the Constitution.

“Decades of Florida statute already exists to protect our citizens and their right to clean air and water,” Feeney added. “This amendment would do nothing more than create harmful uncertainty and open thousands of Florida businesses and private citizens up to endless litigation.”

AIF has retained top environmental and regulatory attorneys with the Gunster law firm. The legal team will include former Florida Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Bell, former Public Service Commission Chair Lila Jaber, former First District Court of Appeal Judge Simone Marstiller and former Florida Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary Gregory Munson.