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Andy Balinsky 512.926.7312
Margot Clarke 512.477.1729

For Immediate Release (Wednesday, August 20, 2003):

Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club Announces Opposition to Proposition 12

(Austin, TX) The Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter today announced its opposition to Proposition 12, the constitutional amendment that will appear on the September 13 ballot. The Sierra Club characterized Proposition 12 as a step backward for clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment. It criticized the amendment as an unnecessary and risky assault on the Texas Constitution that would likely take away the right of citizens and citizen groups to hold polluters fully accountable for their actions in civil courts.

"Proposition 12 takes power out of the hands of local communities and transfers it to the politicians and lobbyists in Austin," said Andy Balinsky, Conservation Chair for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. "Proposition 12 repeals key constitutional rights that allow all Texans to have a fair day in court to protect their neighborhoods and communities from environmental damage. Exercising these rights has been one of the most important tools available to citizens in protecting the environment from pollution. Proposition 12 is a smokescreen: it does nothing to lower insurance rates, it gives special protections to the big polluters who already have too much access and power in Austin."

Proposition 12 would overturn the "open courts" provision that has been in each version of the Texas Constitution since the original draft in 1836. That provision ensures the right of every Texan to trial by jury in all matters. Proposition 12 allows future legislative bodies to infringe on those rights and set arbitrary limits on non-economic damages in all types of civil litigation-including suits against environmental polluters. The Sierra Club sees civil juries as the last line of defense against negligent polluters. Proposition 12 substitutes the judgment of politicians for the judgment of local judges and juries.

"Turning the Texas jury system over to the lobbyists and politicians in Austin would be a disaster for the environment," added Balinsky. "To be able to deter pollution and hold the worst polluters accountable for their actions, we need to defeat Proposition 12."

The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club is joining a long list of Texas citizen organizations that oppose Proposition 12. Those organizations, which include senior citizen advocates, crime prevention organizations, crime victim groups, consumer groups, and many others, say that Proposition 12 alters the Texas Constitution to help HMOs, the insurance industry, hospitals, drug makers, and polluters protect their profits at the expense of patients and consumers.

For more information on Prop. 12 and to view the list of organizations that oppose Proposition 12, visit: