Vote on November 2, 2021 for Ballot Proposal 2 for the Constitutional Amendment for the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthful environment

The purpose of Proposal 2 is to protect public health and the environment by adding a new constitutional right of each person in New York to clean air and water and a healthful environment to the Bill of Rights in Article I of the New York Constitution. Proposal 2 is often called “the Green Amendment.”

Ballot Proposal 2: An amendment for the Right to Clean Air, Clean Water, and a Healthful Environment

On November 2, 2021, New Yorkers will go out an vote, or they can vote early or by absentee ballot, but when they vote they’ll have the opportunity to support Proposal 2 on the state ballot. The proposed amendment to Article I of the New York Constitution would establish the right of each person to clean air and water and a healthful environment. The purpose of this proposal is to protect public health and the environment by adding the right of each person to clean air and water and a healthful environment to the Bill of Rights in Article I of the New York Constitution.

The proposed new constitutional  amendment seeks to create a new Article 1, for the right to clean air and water and a healthful environment. Here’s the how the new section will read:

§ 2. Environmental rights. Each person shall have the right to a clean air and water, and a healthful environment.

§ 2. Resolved (if the Assembly concur), That the foregoing amendment be submitted to the people for approval at the general election to be held in the year 2021 in accordance with the provisions of the election law.

This amendment will enshrine environmental protections as a new and vital part in New York’s bill of rights. By doing so it shows that every New York, regardless of who they are or where they live, has the right to a clean and healthy environment. This is an important, and very basic, statement that deserves inclusion in the State Constitution. This right, like our right to a quality public education, will help to empower New Yorkers and hold the powerful in this state accountable. For those of us who want to see stronger environmental protections in New York State and a stronger plan and commitment to combat climate change, this amendment is an important building block.

Currently, forty-three other states have some form of expression of environmental values in their Constitutions; but only Montana and Pennsylvania have recognized protecting environmental rights as an inalienable right, putting environmental rights on par with other political and civil liberties.

 

Broad support from across New York

State Sen. Robert Jackson sponsored the proposal in the Senate. He said, “This language will finally put in place safeguards that require the government to consider the environment and our relationship to the Earth in decision making. If the government fails in that responsibility, New Yorkers will finally have the right to take legal action for a clean environment because it will be in the State Constitution.”

“This is something that should be a part of being a citizen of this great state, to know that you can grow up, raise a family, and pass on to the next generation a clean and healthful environment. It is simple. This proposal is based on the premise that these rights are fundamental, and that should be reflected in the state’s Constitution. I wish to thank Senator Carlucci for his work in getting this important bill passed,”said Assemblyman Steve Englebright, from Suffolk County, who chairs the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee, spearheaded this group in the Assembly.

“All New Yorkers deserve access to clean drinking water, clean air, and a healthy environment,” said Mario Cilento, President of New York State AFL-CIO. “That is why we are strongly encouraging union members across the state to approve this constitutional amendment in November. This amendment will not only protect our environment by promoting investment in our water infrastructure and new energy technologies, but it will also create solid middle-class jobs in the process.”

Having the right to a healthy environment in the state constitution could also “course correct” the history of putting polluting industries near or in disadvantaged communities, argued Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. “Enshrining a right to clean air and clean water into our state constitution will help empower those who suffer the effects of pollution,” said Bautista.

Senator Todd Kaminsky, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee said, “Each and every resident of our State – no matter their income or zip code – deserves clean air and water. This bill will enshrine this self-evident truth in our State Constitution, and I look forward to seeing New Yorkers overwhelmingly approve it on the ballot this fall.

Senator Rachel May, Chair of Committee on Aging, Chair of Legislative Commission on Rural Resources, 53rd District (D-Onondaga, Madison, Oneida) said, “For too long we have treated clean air and clean water as privileges that have been denied to many, including those in poverty and in communities of color. My district lies in the ancestral lands of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy which, as a governmental system, holds a worldview whose underpinning is the very concept we voted on today – that clean air and water are fundamental rights and we therefore bear the duty of caring for our natural resources not just for ourselves but for future generations. I am very proud to see our laws in New York move closer to that world view with the passage of the Green Amendment bill today.”

Senator José Serrano, Chair of Majority Conference and Chair of Committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks & Recreation said, “Every community deserves the right to clean water, land, and air, and I am heartened that today we voted to correct the omission of this most basic right in our State Constitution. As the current pandemic has shown, high environmental risk factors, like those in the communities I represent, can lead to devastating and wide-reaching health disparities. I look forward to New Yorkers voting on this issue in November, and to a cleaner, healthier New York.”

Current environmental protections in the NYS Constitution

Proposal 2 will strengthen other clauses and sections in the New York Constitutions. I think One of the earliest constitutional protections for the environment was in New York in 1894, when the Constitutional Convention approved Article XIV, Section 1 that “[t]he lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.” Known as the famed “forever wild” clause, this clause is recognized for providing broad protections for the public Forest Preserve. Article XIV, Section 4, long recognized for states, in part: “The policy of the state shall be to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty and encourage the development and improvement of its agricultural lands for the production of food and other agricultural products. The legislature, in implementing this policy, shall include adequate provision for the abatement of air and water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise, the protection of agricultural lands, wetlands and shorelines, and the development and regulation of water resources.” Article XIV, Section 4, also allows private parties to bring citizen suits to enforce these constitutional provisions (which Protect the Adirondacks successfully did). Article XIV, Section 5 states that: “A violation of any of the provisions of this article may be restrained at the suit of the people or, with the consent of the supreme court in appellate division, on notice to the attorney general at the suit of any citizen.”

Other Ballot Questions on the November 2nd Ballot

There are five proposals on the 2021 ballot in New York. Click here for more information.

FORM OF SUBMISSION OF PROPOSAL NUMBER ONE, AN AMENDMENT
Amending the Apportionment and Redistricting Process

This proposed constitutional amendment would freeze the number of state senators at 63, amend the process for the counting of the state’s population, delete certain provisions that violate the United States Constitution, repeal and amend certain requirements for the appointment of the co-executive directors of the redistricting commission and amend the manner of drawing district lines for congressional and state legislative offices. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

ABSTRACT OF PROPOSAL NUMBER ONE, AN AMENDMENT
Amending the Apportionment and Redistricting Process

The purpose of this proposal is to amend the portions of Article III of the New York Constitution that relate to the way district lines for congressional and state legislative offices are determined.
The proposal would do the following:

  • Amend and repeal portions of the state constitutional amendment adopted by voters in 2014 that created a redistricting commission.
  • Allow the redistricting commission to appoint two co-executive directors by simple majority vote, without consideration as to the party affiliation of the individual being appointed. Furthermore, this amendment would eliminate the alternative process currently in place that allows for the appointment of co-executive directors and co-deputy executive directors by the legislature should the redistricting commission fail to appoint co-executive directors, and remove the requirement that the two co-executive directors of the redistricting commission be members of different political parties.
  • Freeze the number of state senators at the current number of 63. Currently, under the state constitution, the number of senators was originally set at 50 and thereafter increased over time to 63.
  • Require that state assembly and senate district lines be based on the total population of the state, and require the state to count all residents, including non-citizens and Native Americans if the federal census fails to include them.
  • Provide for incarcerated people to be counted at their place of last residence, instead of at their place of incarceration, for the purpose of redistricting. This practice is already established by state statute for Senate and Assembly districts.
  • Revise the procedure for drawing and approving Congressional and state legislative districts scheduled to be first applied in 2022. The proposed amendment would alter the redistricting procedure in the following ways:
    • Change the redistricting map approval procedures for the redistricting commission and legislature by making changes to the voting thresholds needed to approve/adopt a plan. Under this proposal:
      • Approval of a plan by the redistricting commission would require at least seven votes, out of the ten commissioners, in favor thereof. There would no longer be a requirement that at least one commissioner appointed by each of the legislative leaders vote in favor of a plan in order to approve it. A plan approved by at least seven commissioners must be approved by a majority of each house of the legislature to be approved.
      • However, in the event that the redistricting commission votes on but does not have the seven votes needed to approve a plan, the commission is required to send the legislature the redistricting plan or plans that garnered the most votes. The legislature would be able to adopt such plan with a 60% majority. This amendment would repeal the requirement that in the event the speaker of the assembly and the temporary president of the senate are members of the same political party, approval shall require the vote in support of it’s passage by at least two thirds of the members elected in each house. If the commission fails to vote on any plan or plans by the deadline, all plans, including draft plans in the commission’s possession are sent to the legislature, and each house of the legislature can introduce and adopt such a plan with or without amendments.
      • The redistricting commission voting requirements and legislative vote thresholds for approving the commission’s plan would no longer vary depending on the political affiliation of the Temporary President of the Senate and the Speaker of the Assembly.
    • Require the redistricting commission that draws the lines to submit its redistricting plan and implementing legislation to the Legislature two months earlier than called for under the current procedure the timeline set forth in the 2014 state constitutional amendment. (For the redistricting cycle due to proceed in 2022, the time frame would be condensed to meet election-related deadlines).
  • Remove certain restrictions on how Senate district lines are drawn, including the “block on border” rule that require placing of blocks on the border of districts in certain districts.
  • Delete certain provisions that the United States Supreme Court has deemed unconstitutional.

Ballot Proposal 2:

FORM OF SUBMISSION OF PROPOSAL NUMBER TWO, AN AMENDMENT
Right to Clean Air, Clean Water, and a Healthful Environment

The proposed amendment to Article I of the New York Constitution would establish the right of each person to clean air and water and a healthful environment. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

ABSTRACT OF PROPOSAL NUMBER TWO, AN AMENDMENT
Right to Clean Air, Clean Water, and a Healthful Environment

The purpose of this proposal is to protect public health and the environment by adding the right of each person to clean air and water and a healthful environment to the Bill of Rights in Article I of the New York Constitution.

Ballot Proposal 3:

FORM OF SUBMISSION OF PROPOSAL NUMBER THREE, AN AMENDMENT
Eliminating Ten-Day-Advance Voter Registration Requirement

The proposed amendment would delete the current requirement in Article II, § 5 that a citizen be registered to vote at least ten days before an election and would allow the Legislature to enact laws permitting a citizen to register to vote less than ten days before the election. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

ABSTRACT OF PROPOSAL NUMBER THREE, AN AMENDMENT
Eliminating Ten-Day-Advance Voter Registration Requirement

Section 5 of Article II of the New York Constitution now requires that a citizen be registered to vote at least ten days before an election. The proposed amendment would delete that requirement. If this amendment is adopted, the Legislature will be authorized to enact laws permitting a citizen to register to vote less than ten days before the election.

Ballot Proposal 4:

FORM OF SUBMISSION OF PROPOSAL NUMBER FOUR, AN AMENDMENT
Authorizing No-Excuse Absentee Ballot Voting

The proposed amendment would delete from the current provision on absentee ballots the requirement that an absentee voter must be unable to appear at the polls by reason of absence from the county or illness or physical disability. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

ABSTRACT OF PROPOSAL NUMBER FOUR, AN AMENDMENT
Authorizing No-Excuse Absentee Ballot Voting

The purpose of this proposal is to eliminate the requirement that a voter provide a reason for voting by absentee ballot. The proposed amendment would do so by deleting the requirement currently in the Constitution that restricts absentee voting to people under one of two specific circumstances: (1) those who expect to be absent from the county of their residence, or from New York City for residents of that city, on Election Day, and (2) those who are unable to appear at their polling place because of illness or physical disability.

Ballot Proposal 5:

FORM OF SUBMISSION OF PROPOSAL NUMBER FIVE, AN AMENDMENT
Increasing the Jurisdiction of the New York City Civil Court

The proposed amendment would increase the New York City Civil Court’s jurisdiction by allowing it to hear and decide claims for up to $50,000 instead of the current jurisdictional limit of $25,000. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

ABSTRACT OF PROPOSAL NUMBER FIVE, AN AMENDMENT
Increasing the Jurisdiction of the New York City Civil Court

The purpose of this proposal is to amend Article VI, Section 15 of the New York Constitution to increase the jurisdiction of the New York City Civil Court. The New York City Civil Court is currently limited to hearing and deciding claims for $25,000 or less. The proposed amendment would allow the New York City Civil Court to hear and decide claims for $50,000 or less.