The “Green Amendment” failed to make it out of House Judiciary Committee on Friday.
The committee voted 9-3 in favor of tabling House Joint Resolution 2, which would have allowed voters to decide whether to amend the state’s Bill of Rights to include environmental rights. This essentially means the proposal is dead for the year.
Committee Chairwoman Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, who is one of the co-sponsors, Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, and Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, were the three who voted against tabling the measure. All of the Republicans on the committee voted in favor of tabling.
During the discussion, House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, expressed concerns that the measure, often referred to as the green amendment, would have unintended consequences and that not enough time had gone into evaluating it.
“If we’re going to embark on something this significant, we have to know what all of the consequences are or are likely to be and we have to spend a lot of time thinking through unintended consequences and I don’t think we’re there yet,” Egolf said.
He also said repealing Section 21 of Article 20 of the state Constitution, as called for in HJR2, could undermine the environmental and conservation-based legislation that has passed.
Section 21 reads: “The protection of the state’s beautiful and healthful environment is hereby declared to be of fundamental importance to the public interest, health, safety and the general welfare. The legislature shall provide for control of pollution and control of despoilment of the air, water and other natural resources of this state, consistent with the use and development of these resources for the maximum benefit of the people.”
Egolf said repealing that section could mean that the Legislature does not have the authority to pass that type of legislation.
The green amendment’s Senate sponsor Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, said it is needed to protect environment regulations that have been put in place under Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration from being revoked by the next governor. She referenced former Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration undoing regulations enacted under her predecessor, Gov. Bill Richardson, that were intended to protect the environment.
“This would require a consideration of the impact on the environment before they were reversed,” she said. “And that’s very important.”
Sedillo Lopez said other states that have passed green amendments have not faced unintended consequences. She said few cases in other states with green amendments ended up in the court of appeals and, when they did, “the results were excellent.”
“Horrible laws were voided and permits that were improperly granted were reversed for reconsideration,” she said. “Those were great results.”
She added that “climate change is upon us and we should do this now.”