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Frequently Asked Questions About Amendment 4

Q: What is Amendment 4?

A: Amendment 4 is a proposed amendment of Florida’s constitution which would require taxpayer-funded referenda on all changes to local government comprehensive plans. In other words, this “Vote on Everything” amendment would force Floridians – not the representatives they elect – to decide hundreds of technical comprehensive plan changes each year.

Q: Would Amendment 4 have any effect on Florida’s economy?

A: Yes, in these tough times, the Vote on Everything amendment would cause Florida’s economy to permanently collapse. If you like the recession, you’ll love Amendment 4. According to a study conducted by The Washington Economics Group, Amendment 4 will reduce Florida’s economic output by $34 billion annually. Given Florida’s precarious economic climate, that’s the last thing our state needs.


Q: Has this been tried anywhere else?

A: Yes, the small town of St. Pete Beach implemented a local version of Amendment 4 in 2006. The measure has decimated their economy, created chaos at the polls, and caused a proliferation of special interest lawsuits. To date, the citizens of St. Pete Beach have seen nearly a dozen lawsuits that have cost local taxpayers almost three-quarters of a million dollars in legal fees. When St. Pete Beach voters approved four pro-economy changes to their comprehensive plan in 2008, Amendment 4 lawyers sued to overturn the results of the election. Nearly two years later, the people of St. Pete Beach are still defending their vote in court. The St. Petersburg Times concluded that Amendment 4 “invites short-term thinking and frequent referendums that are even more susceptible to well-financed campaigns by powerful interests.”


Q: But proponents of Amendment 4 say that it wouldn’t require voter approval on all land-use decisions?

A: They are not telling you the truth. The Florida Supreme Court plainly indicates that Amendment 4 would trigger votes not simply on all land use items, but, in fact, on every change to a local government's comprehensive plan. Citing statute, the court points out that Amendment 4 would lead to referenda on:

"A capital improvement element; a future land-use plan element; a traffic circulation element, a sanitary sewer, solid waste, drainage, potable water, and natural groundwater aquifer recharge element; a conservation element; a recreation and open space element; a housing element; a coastal management element; an intergovernmental coordination element; a transportation element; an airport master plan; a public buildings and related facilities element; a recommended community design element; a general area redevelopment element; a safety element; a historical and scenic preservation element; an economic element ..."


Q: I am concerned about jobs, especially in this economy – is Amendment 4 going to affect jobs?

A: Yes. Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation puts Florida's jobless rate at 12 percent. However, Amendment 4 would drive it even higher. A study by The Washington Economics Group says Amendment 4 will likely cost Florida 267,247 jobs. Professor Tony Villamil, a former economic advisor to Governor Bush and the lead economist for WEG stated, “Amendment 4's passage will have potentially devastating consequences to Florida's economy at a time when the economic situation at both the state and national levels is uncertain and at a time when attracting new businesses to Florida is essential for the future recovery and prosperity of the state and its residents."


Q: What are the costs associated with this amendment?

A: Amendment 4 means higher property taxes and higher costs for all of Florida’s working families. Under Amendment 4, local governments - city and county – would be required to hold expensive referenda on hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of amendments every year. Voters will be asked to vote not only on big development projects but also on all minor or technical changes to their local comprehensive plan. In the last four years alone, this would have meant over 10,000 costly elections across the state of Florida - and more elections require more tax dollars to pay for them. According to the Orlando Sentinel, “The cost to local governments of including the land-use amendments on ballots would soar into the millions.”


Q: Is it realistic to expect voters to approve every change to hundreds of comprehensive land use plans?

A: With hundreds of ballot questions every year, Amendment 4 is unworkable, unrealistic and extreme. A review of state records shows that Florida would average over 10,000 local referenda per year. In 2006, the small town of Carrabelle, in Franklin County, would have voted on 617 individual plan amendments. Under this absurd amendment, it would not be unusual for local voters across Florida to be expected to vote on 200 to 300 comprehensive land use plan amendments per year. 


Q: But Amendment 4 proponents say that on average, Florida commissioners only vote to approve three or four local comprehensive land use plan ordinances per year?

A: Then why do we need Amendment 4? The Amendment 4 campaign is so fond of saying that comprehensive plan changes are "handed out like Halloween candy." Now, they're saying that local commissions only approve "three or four" plan amendments each year. The Amendment 4 campaign may not bother to check its facts, but facts are stubborn things. According to the Department of Community Affairs Sunset Review, there were nearly 6,500 changes to local comprehensive plans in fiscal year 2006-2007 (page 72). Amendment 4 does not contain any limiting language and there are no exceptions for state-mandated amendments. The result: Thousands of minor, technical plan amendments would appear on the ballot individually.


Q: But I am worried about the environment and sprawl – would Amendment 4 provide the solution?

A: No, the Vote on Everything amendment will make matters worse. Amendment 4 would lead to short-term thinking and piecemeal planning which would promote sprawl, not prevent it. For this reason, leading environmental organizations such as 1,000 Friends of Florida have raised objections to this misguided measure. They know that Amendment 4 will make well-coordinated, responsible growth impossible and lead to the exact type of urban sprawl most Floridians bemoan. When comprehensive planning was adopted in the 1980s, some communities had the resources to create sophisticated plans. But some communities--usually smaller ones--did the best that they could with limited time and resources. The result: Many comprehensive plans simply formalized the existing land use patterns—namely sprawl. By crippling the planning process, Amendment 4 may very well encourage bad development by limiting efforts to curb sprawl through improving our comprehensive plans.


Q: But the lawyers behind Amendment 4 say this proposal gives decision-making power to ordinary citizens – is that true?

A: No. Just look at St. Pete Beach—they adopted a local version of Amendment 4 in 2006.  The town’s former Mayor, Ward Friszolowski, noted that “Amendment 4 hasn’t empowered citizens; it’s empowered Political Action Committees.” Right now, local neighborhood associations have greater influence in the development approval process - which involves multiple meetings and public hearings and often negotiations between developers and neighbors. But if Amendment 4 passes, voters living in other parts of the city or county will have just as much influence as you do over what happens (or doesn’t happen) in your neighborhood.  Let’s say your community needs a new fire station.  Under Amendment 4, that might require a 2-year delay and a countywide political campaign.  And it might not be approved by voters living 45-minutes away.  The voices of those most directly affected by land use decisions would ultimately be diluted in a citywide or countywide political campaign, where important community projects would become high-priced battles between competing special interest groups.