Florida politicians on both sides of aisle may have to quit over new law

Vacancies can then be filled by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who signed Amendment 12 into law in May

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Hundreds and possibly thousands of politicians in Florida may have to step down from their elected post following a hearing in federal court on Thursday.

“The judge determined that she wanted to have a briefing from the state of Florida before making that decision,” said plaintiff’s attorney Scott Hiassen.

Judge Beth Bloom was asked to temporarily suspend the state law that implements Amendment 12, which prohibits public officials from lobbying for money during their term in office and for six years after they leave office, but she said no.

Back in February, the state legislature approved the law that implements the amendment.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it in May and it goes into effect on Dec. 31.

“It’s putting people in positions where they have to decide between their private jobs and their public office,” said Hiassen.

Hiassen and other high profile attorneys are representing several local politicians in a lawsuit that claims Amendment 12 and the subsequent law violates the First Amendment.

In court, the state’s attorney general office pointed out Amendment 12 was approved by almost 80 percent of the voters in 2018.

The state questioned the timing of the lawsuit, arguing politicians have had ample time to bring this to court but chose to wait until the last minute.

The other side argued they thought the recent special legislative session would fix some of what they call broad language in the law.

Locally, both Republicans and Democrats are fighting the new law.

Rene Garcia is currently a Miami-Dade County Commissioner and former chair of the Republican Party in Miami-Dade.

Javier Fernandez is a Democrat and currently the mayor of South Miami. He was previously a member of the Florida House of Representatives.

Miami Shores Councilwoman Crystal Wagar is also taking part in the suit.

The effects of the law are already being felt in municipalities like the shores, where Wednesday night the council had to appoint a new member after another elected official quit because of the law.

Politicians across Florida now have until the end of the year to decide if they want to continue to hold public office or keep their lobbying jobs.

Another hearing will be held on this issue on Jan. 27 at 11 a.m.


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About the Author:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.