Business organizations around the state are united in their opposition to CRC 23, a proposal they believe would have considerable negative impact on Florida businesses large and small. And to that end, 28 of these organizations sent a joint letter to the Constitution Revision Commission's Judicial Committee Monday to plead their case.
The letter asks for a "no" vote when the proposal comes up for a vote at Tuesday's 1 p.m. committee meeting.
The groups represent a multitude of industries, from agribusiness to retail to insurance to Realtors.
Says the letter, "CRC Proposal 23 would provide 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.
"By granting this broad right to challenge any government entity, business or private citizen -- even if they are in full compliance with existing laws or valid permits -- CRC Proposal 23 would allow delay or defeat of currently legal activities in our state," the letter continues.
"This amendment circumvents existing avenues to address concerns over air and water quality and instead encourages frivolous lawsuits, which would inevitably drive up business costs and threaten future economic development in Florida.
"Numerous Florida laws and regulations already exist to protect our citizens and their right to clean air and water."
The letter concludes, "CRC Proposal 23 is unnecessary and would do nothing more than create prolonged and harmful uncertainty for Florida businesses.
"For these reasons and more, we join together in opposition of CRC Proposal 23 and urge its defeat."
See the full letter by clicking here, or downloading the attachment at the end of this story.
It is signed by the following groups:
- Associated Builders & Contractors of Florida
- Associated Gas Distributors of Florida
- Associated Industries of Florida
- Association of Florida Community Developers
- Florida Beverage Association
- Florida Cattlemen Association
- Florida Citrus Mutual
- Florida Farm Bureau
- Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association
- Florida Forestry Association
- Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association
- Florida Homebuilders Association
- Florida Insurance Council
- Florida Natural Gas Association
- Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA)
- Florida Petroleum Council
- Florida Ports Council
- Florida Propane Gas Association
- Florida Pulp and Paper Association
- Florida Realtors
- Florida Retail Federation
- Florida Roofing & Sheet Metal Contractors Association
- Florida Transportation Builders Association
- Florida Trucking Association
- Florida United Businesses Association (FUBA)
- Manufacturers Association of Florida
- National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)
- Southeast Milk, Inc.
Besides the letter, Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida (ABC) Chief Lobbyist Carol Bowen released a separate statement calling for a rejection of Proposal 23:
“The broad and vague language of this proposal would open Florida’s construction industry to countless frivolous lawsuits -- regardless of compliance with existing laws or valid permits -- and seriously harm development in our state. Challenges would be brought, potentially even by non-Floridians or business competitors, just to obstruct or delay legal activities, assuring prolonged uncertainty and creating judicial gridlock," writes Bowen.
“Thoughtfully crafted and thoroughly debated environmental protections are already included in Florida’s constitution, and our state’s laws provide various ways to address concerns over air and water quality when needed. This proposal is simply unnecessary and would cause more problems than it would solve.”
Former Sewall's Point mayor Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, appointed to the Constitution Revision Commission by Senate President Joe Negron, has argued, "I wanted a public proposal. I wanted something that came from the people, and this amendment was a collaboration by Barry University and Stetson University professors and some of their students. Nothing in it has been altered.
"Right now our laws are stacked against citizens and for corporations," she said. "This is a fix. When necessary, citizens should have the right to fight for a clean and healthy environment.”
But Gunster attorney Greg Munson, former deputy secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection and its former general counsel, sees a potential nightmare.
“My concern is that this proposal, if placed into the constitution, would create hurdles and potential liability for businesses, small and large, that are legally operating today with valid permits provided through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and/or the U.S. EPA," argues Munson. "The extremely vague language would take years or decades to be clarified by the courts, during which time these businesses would be in the dark about how to comply with the constitution."
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith