The exemption would also keep the public in the dark about where the governor went and who attended meetings and events.
Ron DeSantis, transparency is not thy middle name.
Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature on Tuesday passed a bill that, if signed into law, will shield the publicly-funded travel records of the Florida governor, allowing him to decide if his travel records, and those of other state leaders — such as the lieutenant governor, Cabinet members, Senate President, House Speaker and the state Supreme Court’s Chief Justice — will be concealed from the public.
S.B. 1616 grants the Republican’s administration the power to block inquiries from the media and political opponents, drawing criticism from open government advocates who warn that it would compromise the integrity of the state’s public records law.
Opponents of the measure immediately sounded the alarm, pointing out that the public records exemption would go beyond travel itineraries to also prevent the release of information about where the governor went and who attended meetings and events.
That’s because the bill, which was approved by the House by an 84-31 vote along party lines, would not only apply to DeSantis’ future travels, but could also be used to deny access to information on trips he’s already taken.
On the Move
From a nationwide book tour to a week-long international trip, DeSantis has been on the move in recent months.
Case in point: The governor just returned from a week-long international trip to Japan, South Korea, Israel and the United Kingdom. Records show that DeSantis used a chartered jet for the trip, an expense that could run as high as $10,000 an hour. It’s unclear whether DeSantis used public or private funds to cover the cost of the jet. However, so far Enterprise Florida, the principal economic development organization for the State of Florida, has not answered questions about why the governor needed a chartered jet.
A Penchant for Secrecy
S.B. 1616 is not limited to shielding Florida leaders’ travel records; it also ensures that the names of certain guests at the governor’s mansion would not be disclosed to the public.
While DeSantis’ lawyers claim the bills were crafted to avoid “unwanted scrutiny,” opponents of the new legislation claim that the governor has an ulterior motive: to keep the public from knowing who is helping him vet high-level judicial contenders as he prepares to announce a 2024 presidential run.
There is already speculation about a possible legal challenge once DeSantis signs the bill into law.