May 9, 2022 - News

A push in Florida for a right to clean water

Joseph Bonasia is trying to amend the Florida state constitution to give every Floridian a fundamental right to clean and healthy water. Photo: Andrew West/The News-Press/USA TODAY NETWORK
Joseph Bonasia is trying to amend the Florida state constitution to give every Floridian a fundamental right to clean and healthy water. Photo: Andrew West/The News-Press/USA TODAY Network

A group of Southwest Florida activists have launched an effort to get a new right added to the state constitution: the right to clean water.

Driving the news: A political committee called Florida Right to Clean Water has filed a proposed constitutional amendment that would create a "fundamental right to clean and healthy waters."

  • The amendment would allow lawsuits against state agencies for harm or threatened harm to lakes, rivers, wetlands and other types of water bodies.

Why it matters: The change would put into law that humans in the state have the right to clean drinking water, and if something threatens to pollute it, we can sue.

State of play: To get on the 2024 ballot, the committee would need to submit nearly 892,000 valid petition signatures by Feb. 1, 2024, and receive approval of wording from the Florida Supreme Court.

  • They're collecting signatures here and looking for volunteers to help with collection in all 67 counties.

What they're saying: "The system is failing us right now," said organizer Joseph Bonasia, a retired high school English teacher who moved to Cape Coral six years ago, per the Fort Myers News-Press.

  • "We want to amend the state constitution to give every Floridian a fundamental right to clean and healthy waters … a law that can't be overturned [and] can't be messed with by the state Legislature."

The other side: Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, a Republican homebuilder from Spring Hill, filed a bill that would ban local governments from granting "any legal rights to a plant, an animal, a body of water, or any other part of the natural environment."

  • He argues it would hurt business and the tax base.
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