The sanctity of Florida’s Constitution is violated when we seek to fill it with feel-good amendments that are often vague, duplicative and trigger unintended consequences.


For this reason, Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission should reject Proposal 23, which promotes additional and potentially frivolous environmental litigation.

As a former secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, I had the privilege of working with Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, the sponsor of Proposal 23, to identify restoration projects designed to reduce harmful algal blooms and freshwater discharges in Martin County.

She was a terrific partner.

And Thurlow-Lippisch’s efforts to improve Florida’s environment are genuine and appreciated.

However, this proposed amendment to allow an individual to disregard our environmental laws and place environmental decision making in Florida’s courts is not the answer.

Current law already allows affected citizens to be involved in development permits and to take legal action to stop any person or company from “violating any laws, rules or regulations for the protection of the air, water and other natural resources of the state.”


A constitutional amendment creating another right to sue is not the purpose of a constitution and would add to the litany of vague and duplicative amendments in Florida’s Constitution.

Environmental restoration could also be jeopardized by this proposed amendment and would certainly be an unintended consequence.

For example, communities served by septic tanks along the Indian River Lagoon and our springs have recognized that septic tanks are contributing to the degradation of those water bodies.

Many of these communities are now investing in new or expanded central wastewater treatment systems to improve our springs and important watersheds.

But those new wastewater treatment systems are a source of “pollution.”

This proposed amendment would give disgruntled homeowners who don’t want to give up their septic tanks another litigation avenue to block a new wastewater treatment system.


When the Constitution Revision Commission last convened in 1997-98, it, too, was asked to consider a similar vague proposal about environmental rights.

And it appropriately decided not to advance the proposal.

The Constitution Revision Commission committee now considering Proposal 23 would be wise to follow suit.

Herschel Vinyard, Jacksonville

Vinyard is former secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.