Amendment 4 - an Unprecedented Attack on the Florida Construction Industry

AMENDMENT 4 - AN UNPRECEDENTED ATTACK ON THE FLORIDA CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

By: Larry R. Leiby, Esq. and Ian T. Kravitz, Esq.

About the Author: Larry Leiby, Esq. was the founder and first chairman of the Florida Bar Construction Law Committee in 1976. He is the author of the Florida Construction Law Manual. He is Board Certified in Construction Law and was on the Construction Law Certification Committee that creates and grades the tests for construction law board certification. He was awarded the lifetime achievement award by the Florida Bar Construction Law Committee and teaches construction law at the Florida International University College of Law. He can be reached at leiby@mkpalaw.com. For more information, please visit www.mkpalaw.com.

When voters go to the polls in Florida this November, they will have the future of the Florida construction industry in their hands. After several failed attempts to reach the ballot, proponents of Amendment 4 have finally obtained the signatures necessary to place the most antagonistic amendment to the construction industry in recent memory on the ballot. Members of the construction industry in Florida need to understand that if the amendment passes, then construction in South Florida may be severely impacted at a time when it is already on life support.

Supporters of Amendment 4 are seizing upon the political climate of economic uncertainty, and the swell of support for all things anti-government and anti-spending. Proponents claim that Amendment 4 is the only way to prevent corrupt politicians from granting land-use approvals to those donating large sums to their political campaigns. Instead of more oversight into the approval process, and into the politicians engaging in such practices, Amendment 4, it is claimed, will give voters the ability to grant or deny such land-use. Proponents are selling this Amendment by claiming it is a way to "take power back for the people." A rallying cry for all of those concerned with the size of our current government.

Amendment 4 has been described as a "vote on everything" amendment. Florida voters would be required to vote on each and every comprehensive land use plan change in every jurisdiction. In some cases, this could result in hundreds of ballot initiatives requiring voter approval. Not only would such a process cost the taxpayers countless dollars in carrying out such elections, but the crippling effect on job creation and construction as a whole should be obvious. Mark Wilson, president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce has stated that Amendment 4 "could mean a permanent recession for Florida's economy." A financial impact study by the Washington Economics Group found that over a quarter of one million high-wage jobs in Florida would be at risk from passage of Amendment 4. Over 125,000 construction jobs would be impacted, and over 70,000 jobs of suppliers to the construction industry could be lost.

Such a process has already been attempted in Florida. In 2006, St. Petersburg adopted a local version of amendment 4. That local law crippled the St. Petersburg construction industry, cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, and halted public growth. Ward Friszolowski, the former mayor of St. Petersburg explained that since their measure was passed, "the residents of St. Pete Beach have endured endless lawsuits and seen little progress." As Mark Wilson has said, "if you like the recession, you'll love amendment 4." Luckily for the residents of St. Petersburg, the voters have since repealed their devastating local measure, ultimately recognizing that they need to be careful about what they ask for.

On a Statewide basis, repeal of Amendment 4 would not be easy at all. A repeal of Amendment 4 would require submission to the voters during the next general election -- a timely and costly process. In the interim, the Florida construction industry, already suffering through the current economic downturn, would be held hostage to the ever fickle "will of the people" by election to approve or disapprove construction projects already approved through the normal development process. The only way to prevent this attack is to do everything that you can to stop this Amendment from gaining voter approval. For more information on how to get involved, please visit http://www.florida2010.org/.