A federal judge Tuesday blocked part of a 2018 state constitutional amendment that imposed new lobbying restrictions, siding with two elected officials who argued it violates speech rights.
U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom issued a preliminary injunction against a restriction on state and local officials lobbying other government bodies while in office. She 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.
Bloom ruled in favor of Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rene Garcia and South Miami Mayor Javier Fernandez, who represent clients before other government bodies.
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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.”
Bloom wrote that the state defended such restrictions as being necessary to prevent “quid pro quo corruption.” But Bloom said the state did not justify the restriction on public officials lobbying other government bodies.
“Prohibiting Garcia from receiving money to lobby the very committee he sits on would arguably further the state’s interests of preventing quid pro quo corruption or its appearance. However, defendants have not shown a link between quid pro quo corruption and prohibitions against Garcia lobbying other state entities,” the Miami-based judge wrote in the 23-page ruling. “Similarly, defendants have shown no nexus between quid quo pro corruption and Garcia’s lobbying of the federal government.”
Also, she took issue with the part of the amendment that would bar officials from lobbying on “issues of policy, appropriations or procurement” before government bodies.
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“(It) is this issue-based discrimination that renders the in-office restrictions presumptively unconstitutional,” Bloom wrote. “As such, defendants must show that compensated lobbying on those three issues — but not others — is particularly likely to lead to quid pro quo corruption. Defendants have made no such showing, and it appears unlikely that they will succeed in doing so.”
Garcia and Fernandez, who are both former state lawmakers, were part of a group of local officials who challenged the constitutionality of the restrictions in December, shortly before they were set to take effect. Bloom determined that Garcia and Fernandez were the only plaintiffs who had legal standing.
Also, she found that none of the plaintiffs had standing to challenge the part of the amendment that prevents former state and local officials from lobbying their former government bodies for six years after leaving office. In the past, for example, former state lawmakers had been blocked from lobbying the Legislature for two years after leaving office.
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