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Judge Nixes Florida Constitutional Amendment on Lobbying Ban

The amendment was intended “to nail shut the revolving door between public office and private lobbying,” said its sponsor, former State Senate President Don Gaetz.

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MIAMI, FLORIDA — U.S. Southern District of Florida Judge Beth Bloom has struck down a Florida constitutional amendment that was approved by Florida voters in 2018.

The amendment passed with 79 percent of the vote and it restricted state and local officials from lobbying other governments while in office. It was placed on the 2018 general election ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).

Former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz sponsored the amendment.

“In my view we ought to take a stand in the State of Florida and say you are either a lobbyist or you are an official,” Gaetz said when the amendment was crafted and submitted by the CRC.

In her ruling, Bloom asserted that there was no evidence that office-holders were receiving additional income from lobbying firms, a point made by proponents of the amendment.

Gaetz provided an example in a hearing of a former county commissioner in his home county who “became a lobbyist for the company that had the garbage contract. And as a county commissioner he voted on that very same contract and then turned around and became their lobbyist to his former colleagues.”

However, despite Gaetz’s example, Bloom's ruling said it “does not address the issue of public official lobbying while in office.”

Bloom did uphold a portion of the constitutional amendment that instituted a six-year ban on elected and appointed government officials lobbying the agencies they represented.

By the end of her ruling, Bloom stated that the plaintiffs were able to prove the amendment was a violation of the First Amendment and had “overbroad restrictions on speech.”

The state has not yet signaled if they will appeal the ruling, but the Florida Legislature can recreate the amendment and resubmit it without the violating language struck down by Judge Bloom.