Environmental Rights Resolution referred to state General Assembly

By Cecilia Cress and Olivia Montes
News Co-Editors

This spring semester, incoming Washington College Student Government Association Parliamentarian junior Maegan White announced that the Resolution of Support for the Maryland Campaign for Environmental Human Rights was referred to the Maryland State General Assembly House Transportation and Environmental Committee.

According to White, she, alongside the Chair of the SGA Environmental Committee junior Kevin Denice, edited and submitted a statement of testimony in support of the resolution’s passage to the General Assembly. The statement will be read at their next committee hearing this spring. This testimony will be joined alongside a similar resolution that was passed by the SGA Senate on Nov. 16, 2021.

Regarding the status of the resolution, White said that it is currently “a bit stuck” in the committee.

“The Chair of the Committee has not been super in favor of it, which is really disappointing,” White said. “[But] Denice and I have made our pleas asking him to at least present the bill to that committee so that it can…be voted on by the Senate.”

According to previous Elm coverage, the Environmental Rights Resolution was initially designed to include amendments that should be made to the Maryland Constitution to ensure a “healthful environment” is advocated for and actively protected in Maryland.

If included in the state constitution, this motion will provide all state residents, “as a matter of human dignity, [with] a fundamental and inalienable right to a healthful environment,” according to the resolution. Additionally, this proposal would “guide future legislation and regulations, improve environmental and public health, and give an avenue for residents of Maryland to address and correct environmental injustice and degradation issues.”

“In the past, while there have been laws and legislation that recognize environmental rights as human rights, there’s no real backing behind that — it’s just a statement, [and] there’s nothing in the legal system that actually supports that statement,” White said. “So, adding it to the constitution would make it so that it has legal standing, and if someone who resided in Maryland had an environmental injustice acted against them, they now [would] have legal backing…to take legal action, and try to address the issue.”

According to White, as the General Assembly only meets for 90 days, the goal is to have the resolution pushed out of the committee by mid-April. White also said she believes there are enough votes to get the resolution passed.

“It has to get out of that committee — and that’s been our biggest issue,” White said. “We also reached out to the Speaker of the House encouraging her that, when it does arrive on her table, to make sure that it is heard because the Speaker has control over what bills and legislation are heard and which ones aren’t.”

“So, if all that is done by the end of this Maryland general assembly, so it’s voted out of committee in the House and in the Senate, it will then go on the referendum for the November election and then it would take effect immediately,” White said.

Despite all this, White remains hopeful that, with the growing power of student support, this resolution will pass.

“Our involvement has been very much more of figuring out ways that we can show our support…[but] from what I’ve heard from the directors of the campaign that we that we have met with, they’ve tried getting things like this in the past, and they’ve never had this much support that they currently have, so that makes me incredibly optimistic,” White said. “The fact that we are showing a more united front, especially our generation, and I think if we’re motivated enough, we can definitely keep fighting through this and address these environmental issues that are facing our world.”

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