In tossing out lobbying restrictions, federal judge affirms right to free speech | Opinion

Federal U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom threw out the lobbying ban that would prevent elected officials from lobbying in their private lives. Bloom ruled that the broad nature of the state constitutional amendment would infringe upon our First Amendment rights and, therefore, our freedom of speech.

I filed this lawsuit, along with the mayor of South Miami and other affected individuals, to challenge the constraints imposed by this law.

The law was intended to implement a portion of a constitutional amendment proffered by Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission and approved by the electorate in 2018. The constitutional amendment, which took effect on Dec. 31, 2022, bars officeholders from lobbying or representing another person or entity for compensation before any government agency. Bloom let stand the portion that imposes a six-year lobbying ban on former elected officials, and it is limited to the government where they served.

The U.S. Constitution prevents the government from making laws that regulate an establishment of religion or that prohibit the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly, or the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

This law would have not only restricted sitting elected officials from petitioning the government, but would also have restricted groups from having the ability to hire experienced professionals to represent them by excluding all who are serving in public office.

I am a firm believer in the First Amendment. I am also a proud Republican, and regardless of the proposal’s origin, the First Amendment is a founding principle of this great nation and must be protected. The First Amendment differentiates us from other countries, giving us the right to freedom of speech.

It is important to stand firm in one’s belief, and as a defender of our First Amendment right, it would have been hypocritical not to speak up because members of my own party were pushing this amendment to Florida’s Constitution. Therefore, I applaud the judge for her ruling.

Today, the First Amendment prevails for everyone in our state. It’s a victory for defenders of the First Amendment and, especially, a citizen’s constitutional right to petition their government.

René García represents District 13 on the Miami-Dade County Commission. He served in the Florida House and Senate.