On November 2, 2021, New York voters approved an Amendment to the State Constitution’s Bill of Rights providing that: “Each person shall have the right to clean air and water, and to a healthful environment.” In those sixteen words, the right to a healthy environment was, for the first time, cloaked in constitutional protection in New York and deemed the equivalent to the sixteen current constitutional guarantees in the state Bill of Rights. Those rights include freedom of speech, trial by jury, religious liberty, habeas corpus, compensation for taking of private property, equal protection of law, and security against unreasonable searches and seizure.
There has been considerable commentary on the potential impact of the new Amendment, commonly referred to as the “Green Amendment.” The question yet unresolved is whether the Green Amendment will be no more than an abstract statement of a societal desire or a meaningful mechanism for citizens to safeguard their environment. This explainer outlines several facets of that question.
At this moment in time, our country is in the midst of a vigorous and often contentious debate with regard to the right to vote. Congress has several pending bills that are hotly contested, and many state legislatures have either adopted bills or are working on bills that will affect the voting process and procedures in their states. New York, where the rhetoric has been far more subdued, has also taken some action with respect to voting. Furthermore, New York voters will get to have a say in some of the choices our state will be making.