Authored by: Christopher T. Dawson, Shareholder/Government Consultant | September 1, 2021
An environmental activist group is seeking to place up to five pro-environment constitutional amendments on the 2022 election ballot for consideration by Florida voters. This organization, dubbed FL5, is currently collecting voter signatures for each of the five wide-ranging proposals. Additional information on their efforts, including the full text of the proposed amendments may be found at the website www.fl5.org. The title and proposed ballot summary language for these initiatives are as follows.
I. Right to Clean Water
Proposed Ballot Summary: Prohibits pollution of Florida’s waters by recognizing a right to clean water for all Floridians and Florida waters, including the Everglades, Florida Springs, the Indian River Lagoon, the St. Johns River, the Caloosahatchee River, Biscayne Bay, Tampa Bay, Pensacola Bay and all other waters within the state; provides for local lawmaking to protect clean water, and provides for enforcement and severability.
II. Florida Iconic Species
Proposed Ballot Summary: Enhances protection for the Florida Black Bear, Florida Panther, Manatee, Key Deer, Florida Scrub Jay, Bald Eagle, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Bottlenose Dolphin, Right Whale, and Marine Turtles iconic to Florida by banning recreational and commercial hunting of those species and providing a private right of action.
III. Florida Wetlands Protection
Proposed Ballot Summary: Enhances protection for Florida wetlands, both naturally occurring and man-made, by prohibiting the draining, dredging, filling or other degradation of Florida wetlands, thereby preventing harmful effects such actions have on the ecosystems of wetlands, native wildlife, and the environmental health of Florida.
IV. Captive Wildlife Hunting
Proposed Ballot Summary: Prohibits captive wildlife hunting in the state of Florida to prevent animal cruelty, preserve and protect Florida native lands, limit disease transmission, protect the public health of Florida citizens, and preserve and protect wildlife species.
V. Stop New Toll Roads
Proposed Ballot Summary: Prohibits the construction or expansion of toll roads on conservation and rural lands because they destroy natural systems, divide wildlife corridors, and place an increased burden on working families with excessive expenses, decreasing the quality of life for all Floridians.
A couple of these initiatives are in direct response to recent actions by the Florida Legislature. The Right to Clean Water proposal seeks to grant legal rights to water bodies across the state that could be used to challenge new development. In recent legislative sessions, the Legislature has passed pre-emption bills to prevent the granting of such rights at the local level through related "rights of nature" ordinances and county charter amendments. Similarly, the Legislature has passed legislation to encourage the expansion of the state’s Florida Turnpike toll road system. The Stop New Toll Roads initiative would seek to invalidate these expansion efforts via constitutional amendment.
Clearly, the five proposals being advocated by this group could yield many negative impacts to the construction industry in both intended and unintended ways. To date, there has not been much of an organized opposition effort, but that is sure to change as the initiatives gain notoriety statewide and the attention of Florida’s formidable business and construction industry groups. Florida’s 2022 election season is already upon us in races up and down the ballot, and these five constitutional amendment proposals join a slew of other citizen initiatives targeting marijuana, gaming and other topics. We have a busy 14-monts ahead!