Legislature’s Assault on Environment Defies State Constitution

Photo credit: Charles Brackett

In the midst of multiple legislative attacks on environmental laws and natural resources that Michiganders cherish, it is tempting to despair.  But at FLOW we seek positive, right solutions based on the principle that no matter who a person is, no matter her or his walk of life or political persuasion, we are a democracy based on the equitable and just rule of law. Let’s start with our state’s current Constitution of 1963. In Article IV, Section 52, it declares and mandates:

“The conservation and development of the natural resources of the state are hereby declared to be of paramount public concern in the interests of health, safety, and general welfare of the people. The legislature shall provide for the protection of the air, water and other natural resources of the state from pollution, impairment or destruction.” [Emphases added]

Could the wording be any clearer? The Michigan Supreme Court in 1974 interpreted this language to mean that the paramount concern for public health, safety, and welfare and the protection of our air, water, and natural resources from pollution, impairment, or destruction imposed a duty on the state to prevent degradation of the environment and health. The Court ruled that the provision was self-executing to the extent that the legislature “shall” enact laws that prevent pollution, impairment, or destruction.  

Jim Olson, President and Founder

Put another way, it means the legislature is not authorized to pass laws that do the opposite!  Yet that is exactly what a core mob of our current legislators is doing amidst the celebration of the light and joy of Christmas. The “lame-duck year of the Grinch?” I suppose so.   But no matter what the label, I think it is high time for all of us to insist that whoever runs for, or is sworn into, office to represent us, the sovereign people, they be required to follow the State Constitution, not thumb their nose at it.  It is time legislators spend less time looking at the size of their donations, or their self-interested ideology, and more time reading and abiding our State Constitution.


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