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Former legislator launches legal challenge to lobbying ban

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Former Rep. Rocky Miller has mounted a legal challenge to Missouri statute which bars legislators from lobbying for at least two years following their service in the General Assembly. 

Miller said the statute, which was added to the Missouri Constitution in 2018, violates his free speech rights. He represented HD 124 in Camden and Miller counties from 2013-2021. 

“Earlier this year, I was approached by a business which needed help navigating some environmental regulation issues with the state. Unfortunately, I was unable to help them because of a recent law that bans me from advocating for them to the government,” Miller told The Missouri Times. “Some call this lobbying, but the constitution calls it freedom of speech and petitioning your government.” 

“I am suing the Missouri officials who enforce this unconstitutional infringement on my rights,” Miller said. 

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri late Thursday. It names Elizabeth Ziegler and other members of the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC) as the defendants. 

His lawsuit seeks an injunction against the lobbying ban for legislators from being enforced as well as compensatory damages. 

According to the lawsuit, Miller was approached by a company in November and was asked to provide lobbying services in Missouri’s executive and legislative branches. Miller has spent three decades as an engineer in Missouri with a particular focus on environmental engineering. 

The lawsuit said Miller’s background in engineering and legislative services made him “uniquely qualified to advocate” on behalf of that company but the lobbying ban prevented him from being able to successfully register as a lobbyist with the MEC. 

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“The Lobbying Ban acts as a prior restraint on speech by completely banning Miller from speaking to legislators and executive department officials on behalf of others. The Lobbying Ban is also a content-based restriction on speech because it regulates the substance of what Miller must say; it permits him to speak about his own interest, but not Prospective Client’s,” the lawsuit said. “Thus, the Lobbying Ban also restricts Miller’s right to petition the government.” 

The lawsuit said the statute also infringes on the company’s right to petition because it prevented it from hiring its “chosen advocate.” 

In 2018, 62 percent of voters approved Amendment 1, otherwise known as Clean Missouri. Among its myriad of provisions, Amendment 1 increased the wait time for legislators to transition to lobbyists from six months to two years. 

A representative for the MEC was not immediately available for comment.