Amendment 4 Opens the Floodgates for Special Interest Lawsuits

This November, voters will be faced with a number of tough decisions at the ballot box.  Fortunately, one of the most important decisions should also be the easiest.  Amendment 4, a “Vote on Everything” proposal, would kill jobs, raise taxes, and lead to endless litigation at taxpayer expense.

Amendment 4 has been referred to as a ‘stimulus package for special interest lawyers’.  And for good reason; this proposal would add costly new layers of bureaucratic red-tape to an already complicated planning process.  It would be virtually impossible to condense thousands of pages of technical planning data into the 75 word ballot summaries that are required by law.  Inevitably, disagreements – and lawsuits – would ensue.  Amendment 4 encourages the special interests that lose at the ballot box to take their case to court, at taxpayer expense.

That is exactly what happened to the small town of St. Pete Beach, which implemented a local version of Amendment 4 in 2006. The measure has decimated their economy and created chaos at the polls. To date, the citizens of St. Pete Beach have seen nearly a dozen lawsuits that have cost local taxpayers more than 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. Ward Friszolowski, the former Mayor of St. Pete Beach wrote “Our experiment in Amendment 4 has turned St. Pete Beach into a battleground for special interests.”  The same “copy and paste” lawsuits that plague St. Pete Beach would soon spread to every Florida town.

Moreover, under Amendment 4, residents most impacted by local planning decisions will lose influence in a process that inherently favors deep-pocketed special interests. This measure would turn the growth management debate into a political spectacle.   Neighborhoods would lose representation in the public planning process, as communities across town make decisions about schools, hospitals, jails, and landfills in your backyard.

Worse still, Amendment 4 will introduce new delays into the planning process. This measure is so extreme that it does not even contain exceptions for vital community projects like hospitals, schools, police stations or fire trucks.  Consequently, even important and uncontroversial community projects will likely experience paralyzing delays.

As Florida attempts to recover from this devastating recession, the last thing we need is Amendment 4, a proposal that would empower special interest lawyers to raid taxpayer’s pockets in order to finance special interest lawsuits.  This November, VOTE NO on Amendment 4!