Elected officials in Florida are now free to exercise their First Amendment right to lobby again. The news comes after prominent South Florida based attorney Ronald L. Book and others led a successful challenge of the state’s poorly designed and overly broad in-office lobbying ban.
On Wednesday, August 9, a U.S. District Court Judge issued an Order striking down the Sunshine State’s latest anti-lobbying amendment. Voters passed the amendment in 2018, banning all elected officials from lobbying during their terms of office in jurisdictions where they do not serve as elect officials. The same amendment also banned lobbying for six years after an official’s term had ended.
U.S. District Court Judge Beth Bloom, however, has declared the amendment an unconstitutional infringement on First Amendment protected free speech. The law was one of 13 constitutional amendments passed in 2018 and went into effect this year.
Once in effect, numerous elected officials promptly challenged the amendment. This challenge resulted in a temporary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the restrictions. Officials challenging the newly imposed law did so based on fundamental First Amendment principles.
Overly Broad In-Office Lobbying Ban
Ronald L. Book, together with attorneys Kendall Coffey, Scot Hiaasen, Robert Fernandez, and Ben Kuehne argued that Florida’s recently imposed lobbying ban was too far-reaching. The State of Florida claimed that the restrictions were necessary, quoting the prevention of public corruption.
U.S. District Judge Bloom sided with the Plaintiffs in early August.
Judge Bloom attested that the in-office lobbying ban was overly broad. She also wrote in her opinion that the ban served no real purpose. That comes as evidence shows how no elected official had abused their position to lobby for a client since the amendment’s original announcement.
The earlier temporary injunction, stopping enforcement of the restrictions, is now permanent following the ruling. Ronald L. Book is one of five attorneys with extensive experience defending constitutional freedoms who formally challenged the ban with Plaintiffs Miami Dade Commissioner Rene Garcia and Pinecrest Mayor Javier Fernandez. The successful First Amendment challenge has received widespread praise as a win for Florida’s elected officials.
The challenge’s success also illustrates Federal Court recognition that Florida’s lobbying restrictions had gone too far. That’s according to a statement issued by the collective legal team (of which Book was a part) responsible for defending constitutional freedoms and overturning the in-office lobbying ban.
Well-Intentioned but Poorly Designed
Elsewhere, alongside Ronald L. Book, others familiar with—but ultimately critical of—Florida’s latest lobbying amendment had suggested that the law was well-intentioned but poorly designed. That includes a number of the elected officials who first challenged the amendment, resulting in the initial temporary injunction.
Further criticism of the law has also highlighted its negative impact on non-elected entities requiring lobbying assistance. That’s because the restrictions effectively denied organizations and others the right to choose appropriate representation.
Judge Beth Bloom cited this, going on to rule that the in-office lobbying ban was unconstitutional as it restricted free speech by limiting who organizations, companies, and other parties could instruct to speak on their behalf.
Florida Attorney Ronald L. Book
Attorney Ronald L. Book is a prominent South Florida and Tallahassee based lobbyist. He has successfully influenced local public policy decision-making for over 40 years. During this time, he has lobbied extensively for healthcare institutions, local governments, and nonprofits across Florida, as well as for the University of Miami, Keiser University, the Miami Dolphins, FP&L AT&T, the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, and Miami Dade Public Schools to name a few.
Book recently marked 25 years as the chairman of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust. Moreover, in January 2023, the prominent Miami-Dade County-based lobbyist and attorney received the Florida Bar’s Pro Bono Service Award, recognizing his work with disadvantaged and low-income Sunshine State citizens.
Furthermore, Book serves on the charitable boards of Best Buddies, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, the Mourning Family Foundation, and Neighbors 4 Neighbors. He’s also the co-founder of Lauren’s Kids, a vital nonprofit foundation established in 2007 alongside his daughter, Florida state Senator Lauren Book.