Article I section 19
[Environmental rights] §19. Environmental rights. Each person shall have a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment. (Added by vote of the people November 2, 2021.)
History of the Amendment
According to Article XIX of the New York Constitution, amendments to the constitution may be proposed through legislation or constitutional convention. The legislative path requires proposal of the amendment in the Senate and Assembly and then referred to the Attorney General for an opinion. Within twenty days, the Attorney General must provide a written opinion to both bodies explaining the effect of the amendment on other parts of the constitution. If after receiving the opinion, the majority of members of both houses agree to the amendment, the amendment should be referred to the next regular legislative session after the next general election of members of the Assembly. The proposal must be published for three months and then if the majority of both houses agree to the amendment, the amendment is placed on the ballot for the voters to decide. If a majority of voters approve of the amendment, it will become a part of the constitution on January 1.
The process for getting what was termed the “Green Amendment” on the ballot began in 2017. Senate bill 5287 and Assembly Bill 6279 were proposed to add the right to clean air and water and a healthful environment in the state constitution. These efforts were unsuccessful in passing both houses. However, in the next legislative session (2019-2020) the proposal was again made and this time, successfully passed both houses. After this success, bills were proposed in the next legislative session (2021-2022) and again passed both houses before being added to the ballot in November 2021. This guide provides the documents that form the legislative history of the Constitutional Environmental Right such as bill text, sponsor memos, community support or opposition for the measure, transcripts from the houses, and voting records.