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Florida’s home builders and business community posted a resounding victory on Election Day when voters overwhelmingly rejected Amendment 4 to the state’s constitution, which would have required a taxpayer-funded referendum for all changes to local government comprehensive land-use plans.
Known as the Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment, the initiative failed by a 67% to 33% margin. It needed approval by 60% of the voters to pass.
Essentially, the amendment would have forced voters to make hundreds of decisions about growth and development plan changes each year, which would have had severe economic consequences for the Sunshine State, according to Doug Buck, director of government affairs for the Florida Home Builders Association.
“The day after this passed, businesses would have stopped expanding or moving to Florida,” he said. “That was the hugely scary part. That’s where the jobs and growth impact would have been immediately felt.”
Cities and counties across the state would have been compelled to spend taxpayer dollars on additional elections, or be forced to wait until the next election to list all of the changes proposed to a comprehensive plan. Elected officials and local planners who have the training and knowledge needed to make decisions regarding complex land-use planning issues would have been stripped of their authority.
For the past four years, members of the Florida HBA and scores of other organizations have been sending the message that this amendment would effectively halt development across the state and force property owners and developers to wait for the voters to decide on land-use plans.
In 2006, the amendment was removed from the ballot through a legal challenge and supporters were unable to muster enough signatures to put it on the ballot in 2008. This year, proponents were successful in bringing the initiative before the state’s voters.
Dogged persistence and a strong grassroots network were the key to defeating Amendment 4, said Buck.
“In November of 2008, when it did not reach the ballot, we didn’t decide, ‘let’s take a break for a year and come back in a year and go at it again.’ We kept raising money, doing outreach, building our grassroots coalitions and educating the public. That’s the key to success.”
The extensive grassroots network consisted of hundreds of organizations ranging from builders, Realtors® and local chambers of commerce, to state and local government entities, unions and local school boards.
“We built one of the best and most extensive grassroots organizations in my experience working on constitutional amendments in Florida elections,” said Buck.
NAHB contributed funds to the cause to help educate the public about the potentially devastating impact that Amendment 4 would have on the state’s economy.
Buck said that informing the public about the disastrous consequences of Amendment 4 was critical because the amendment’s language had a powerful appeal, asking voters if they wanted to directly decide land-use plans in their local communities.
“When you spent time educating people on what that really meant — up to a two-year delay for companies that might want to move to Florida after going through regulatory requirements and then having to wait for the next election, essentially discouraging economic development in the state — they said ‘no.’ Florida is already arguably at a disadvantage because we have so much regulation and voters understood this would result in fewer jobs and higher costs for all of Florida’s working families.”
Other wins for housing on Election Day were scored in Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah, where anti-"card check" ballot measures related to unionization efforts were passed, and in Colorado, where builder-opposed measures including Amendment 60, Amendment 61 and Proposition 101 all went down in defeat.
For more information on the state ballot initiatives, e-mail Stephen Gallagher at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8319.