Local Officials Seek to Block Lobbying Restrictions

Local Officials Seek to Block Lobbying Restrictions

By Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — A federal judge will hear arguments Jan. 27 in an attempt by a group of local elected officials to block new lobbying restrictions that they argue violate First Amendment rights.

The officials from Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Leon counties filed a lawsuit last week in federal court in Miami challenging the restrictions, which take effect Saturday. Florida voters in 2018 passed a constitutional amendment approving the restrictions, and the Legislature this year approved bills to carry out the amendment.

The lawsuit focuses heavily on part of the restrictions that will prevent state and local officials from lobbying other government bodies while in office. At least some of the plaintiffs do lobbying work.

“Under Amendment 12 (the 2018 constitutional amendment), a local elected official, such as a school board member, is prohibited from lobbying before Congress or a federal agency, even on matters wholly unrelated to the official’s role with local government,” the lawsuit said. “Similarly, the new restrictions would prohibit a city commissioner with a municipality in Palm Beach County from advocating in Orange County or elsewhere.”

In addition to restricting current public officials, the amendment also 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 have been blocked from lobbying the Legislature for two years after leaving office.

The lawsuit, reported earlier Friday by the Broward Bulldog news site, contends that the restrictions are overly broad.

“The only government interest that could potentially be served by the advocacy restrictions is the prevention of quid pro quo corruption or the appearance of quid pro quo corruption,” a motion for a preliminary injunction filed Tuesday said. “But that purpose does not empower a broadly worded prohibition that effectively shuts off all access to political speech. … The restriction sweeps too broadly and impermissibly restricts substantial, legitimate First Amendment activity. Very plainly, it is a far cry from legislation that is tailored narrowly in its restrictions on political speech.”

U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom on Thursday scheduled a Jan. 27 hearing in Miami on the preliminary-injunction motion. The defendants — the Florida Commission on Ethics, Attorney General Pam Bondi and state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — had not filed arguments as of Friday afternoon, according to an online docket.

The plaintiffs are Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rene Garcia, a former state senator and House member; South Miami Mayor Javier Fernandez, a former state House member; Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard, a former state House member; Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor; and Miami Shores Village Council member Crystal Wagar.

As examples of the plaintiffs’ interest in the restrictions, Garcia is executive vice president of New Century Partnership, LLC, a consulting firm that provides lobbying services, according to the lawsuit. Meanwhile, Fernandez is a lawyer who represents clients before county and municipal boards.

The 2018 constitutional amendment, which was placed on the ballot by the state Constitution Revision Commission, received support from nearly 79 percent of voters.

10 Responses to "Local Officials Seek to Block Lobbying Restrictions"

  1. @ Jon… I take your point on corrupt politicians and the malleable drones that keep electing them. We agree 100% on that. But it is not just the corrupt politician that takes the bribe that is the problem. Corrupt lobbyists that offer the bribes are just as problematic. And to be clear, I believe there are many honest lobbyists supporting good causes. But as is my position on politicians and term limits, to wit: I’ll gladly give up a good one if it will rid us of 100 bad ones… for me, the same goes for lobbyists.

    We can respectfully agree to disagree, but IMO… there is a clear distinction between John-Q and a paid lobbyist.

  2. Edward, Whether I speak myself or pay someone to do it for me is irrelevant. The problem is not lobbyists but politicians and people who keep reelecting corrupt ones. And the size of govt that can be manipulated. Laws restricting speech won’t do anything to stop lobbying any more than gun control stops crime.

  3. Mr Whip

    “leftist voters vote against their own best interest?” Great quote not a question, but a fact…

    “Leftist voters vote against their own best interests.”

  4. The citizens of Miami/Dade, Palm Beach, and Leon Counties have a known history of the type of behaviour which the lobbying restrictions are aimed at reigning in for the protection of the public at large.
    Specifically the citizens of the 3 above counties have a high tolerance of illegal and unethical behaviour on the part of their elected officials and will re-elect candidates they know are highly unethical.
    Personally, and this is just me, but I think those citizens feel like they are hitting back at conservatives by tolerating and re-electing their unethical elected officials. Admitingly I may be wrong about why the citizens of those 3 counties vote for crooks but hey who can really figure out why leftist voters vote against their own best interest?
    Moral of the story is Florida really could not give a rip why leftists vote the way they do but their voting results in their elected officials engaging in a clear and present danger to the entire State of Florida which is why Florida’s citizens imposed the lobbying restrictions. Those 3 Counties will not prevail in this court action.

  5. @ Jon… not for nothing, but most “people” do not get paid to petition the government.

    Lobbyists get “paid” to secure a desired outcome when petitioning the government… John Q Public can only “pray” for one.

  6. It does violate the first amendment. People have a right to petition govt. The solution is to stop electing unethical people.

  7. It’s the entities, businesses, politicians, etc that court and allow the lobbyists to misuse and abuse the system to the point it has become an accepted culture. To the individuals who look the other way and say nothing except jump on the bandwagon they should know better, but show no discernment

    Two entities who allow this culture is the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce and the Tallahassee Democrat. However, in the last few years the Tallahassee Democrat has had an awakening and starting to question this culture. You don’t give the perpetrators emcee positions.

    Had the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce and the Tallahassee Democrat given Gary Yordon, Scott Maddox, and Sean Pittman restraining orders instead of carte blanche and WCTV the same, perhaps we would be all the better…

    It is time for all to say no to the perpetrators.

  8. The arguments made against this amendment are sound. The amendment is too broad. I think the deeper ssue is why do we vote on amendments so often. A constitution should be very difficult to amend or we end up with vague, confusing and conflicting rules subject to the current whim of the populace.

    It reminds me of ancient Athens when they tried out a pure democracy. One session of their voting body would vote to send their army out to fight a war and before the army could arrive to fight the next governing group would vote against it and have to send runners to tell the army to stop.

    Amendments must be carefully crafted debated and understood. The way amendments are presented to us in Florida do not allow for that. And thus we spend money and time fighting over it after the fact. The opportunity cost is, to me, not worth it. Let’s change the process and protect a constitution that should remain steady and rarely changed.

  9. These are all leftist ran counties which have all set up very lucrative money laundry type of operations in which the lobbying is done by fellow leftists who pass a hefty percentage of the lobbying money made back to the local (leftist) politicians in the form of campagian contributions. Our local usual suspects in Tallahassee/Leon have been doing the Lobbyist/Money Laundry scam since time began.
    The scam was likley a deciding factor in Scott Maddox decision to take the scam another level up to outright extortion in his Governance Corp. scam for which Scott, Paige, and J.T. are all still doing prison time.
    They are going to need a leftist crooked judge to rule in their favor for sure because an honest judge will see their freedom of speach appeal as a freedom to steal appeal.

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