Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office quickly launched an appeal after a federal judge last week blocked part of a 2018 state constitutional amendment that imposed new lobbying restrictions.
Lawyers in Moody’s office filed a notice Friday that was a first step in appealing the ruling by U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom. The South Florida-based judge issued a permanent injunction against a restriction on state and local officials lobbying other government bodies while in office. Bloom said the restriction violated First Amendment rights.
As is common, the notice filed by Moody’s office did not detail arguments it will make at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But the state separately requested a stay that would lead to the injunction only applying to Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rene Garcia — and not other public officials — while the appeal moves forward.
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Garcia was the remaining plaintiff in the case, after Bloom ruled Wednesday that South Miami Mayor Javier Fernandez did not have legal standing. Garcia’s attorneys will have until the end of this week to respond to the stay request.
The 2018 amendment, which was proposed by the state Constitution Revision Commission, sought to bar public officials from lobbying “for compensation on issues of policy, appropriations, or procurement before the federal government, the Legislature, any state government body or agency, or any political subdivision of this state, during his or her term of office.”
Garcia, a former state House member and senator, is executive vice president of New Century Partnership, a firm that provides lobbying and other services. Garcia said he turned down at least two clients who sought lobbying services for legislative appropriations in Tallahassee because of the restriction, according to Bloom’s ruling.
She ruled that the 2018 constitutional amendment and a law that carried it out placed “content-based, overbroad restrictions on speech.”
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“Contrary to defendants’ assertion, the in-office restrictions target speech based on the context of the speech and its content,” Bloom wrote.
Bloom did not block another part of the voter-approved amendment that restricts former state and local officials from lobbying for six years after leaving office.
The judge in February issued a preliminary injunction against the part of the amendment that prevented Garcia from lobbying other government agencies. The state appealed that preliminary-injunction ruling to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Atlanta-based appeals court in June issued a partial stay so the preliminary injunction only applied to Garcia and Fernandez while the appeal was pending. Fernandez remained a plaintiff at the time of the preliminary injunction.
The state on Friday filed a motion seeking dismissal of the preliminary-injunction appeal after Bloom issued the permanent injunction. The motion said the earlier appeal was “moot.”
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