Veronica Culbertson: Cooperation, Not Lawsuits, Key to Creating Jobs in Florida
OPINION: Growing things takes the right environment. That’s true not just in nature, but in business as well. That’s why it is critical that Florida steers clear of misguided climate change lawsuits that help trial attorneys, but hurt the state’s business climate. As a small business owner in Southwest Florida, I pay close attention to what is happening in other cities and regions. I’ve been alarmed, for example, at what has happened in places like New York, California, Colorado, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Washington, where local and state leaders  have joined with for-profit trial attorneys to sue energy manufacturers over climate change. Claiming that manufacturers should be held responsible for sea level rise and wildfires, a handful of people hope to gain sizable paydays by claiming that these manufacturers—who provide the products we all rely on daily—represent “public nuisances.”

This is especially concerning to me because Florida already has a bad legal reputation. This reputation costs Floridians dearly when potential businesses choose not to locate within our borders. If more baseless litigation comes to our state, our reputation will sink even lower, robbing businesses - many which are small businesses owned by women and minorities - of the chance to create jobs and pursue the American dream.

The good news is that so-called “public nuisance” lawsuits so far haven’t worked. These cases, most famously in San Francisco, Oakland, and New York City, have been dismissed by federal judges who understand that you can’t litigate climate change through the courts.

Likewise in New York, last summer U.S. District Judge John Keenan dismissed the climate lawsuit filed by New York City targeting manufacturers. In his opinion, Keenan wrote, “Global warming and solutions thereto must be addressed by the two other branches of government.” Courts shouldn’t decide issues of climate change. Congress and the executive branch should.

The other piece of good news is that at least one Florida city, Fort Lauderdale, has decided against litigation against manufacturers over climate change. Hopefully this is an acknowledgement that meaningful solutions must be pursued, rather than lawsuits with a losing record. Our newly-elected governor has embraced exactly that approach, choosing to pursue practical approaches over frivolous lawsuits. Instead of suing energy companies, DeSantis decided to invest an additional $1 billion for Everglades restoration and water cleanup along with millionsmore for additional environmental projects. These are winning, bipartisan measures toward progress, as opposed to ridiculous lawsuits that target major manufacturers.

Today, there are 2.5 million small businesses in Florida. I own one of them, meaning I am well aware of what happens when job creators are targeted by trial attorneys who care more about making money than the effect their lawsuits have on economies. If we really want to grow jobs, we’ll focus on the ways that manufacturers are part of the solution, rather than suing them.

For example, over the last ten years manufacturers in the U.S. have made significant strides in reducing their emissions while increasing their overall value to the economy. They’ve done so by leading the way in pioneering new innovative technologies and increasing sustainability efforts. Rather than hindering that progress, we should be applauding their environmental success that is having an impact on this worldwide challenge.

Floridians have a clear choice when it comes to making a difference with climate change. We should say no to trial lawyers and activists pushing public nuisance lawsuits. After all, these lawsuits do nothing to actually help the environment, but do plenty to damage Florida’s business community.

Veronica Culbertson is the president of the Hispanic Business Professionals of Southwest Florida and works to promote, advocate and facilitate the success of Hispanic and non-Hispanic businesses, markets and communities.

Read 989 times Last modified on Tuesday, 15 October 2019 13:25
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A weekly podcast focusing on the people and stories shaping Florida politics produced by Trimmel Gomes an award-winning journalist and former statewide news director of Florida Public Radio. Gomes hosted its flagship program "Capital Report" and created the public affairs program "It's About Florida." Gomes is political commentator and regular political contributor to WTXL ABC 27 in Tallahassee.


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