Sunday, April 23, 2023

ANNALS OF DeSANTISTAN: Florida poised to make DeSantis’ travel records secret. (Politico)

"Get off any plane!"  -- Harrison Ford to terrorist hijacker in the movie, "Air Force One."  Governor DeSANTIS lacks appreciation of the fact that this plane belongs to the State of Florida, not to him.

Hopefully this secrecy bill will be rejected by the Florida House of Representatives.  Under our State Constitution, it must pass by 2/3 vote.  I know that Representative Cynthia Ward Stevenson won't want to support this legislation.  Her taking a walk during the vote would kill this bad bill. 

From Politico: 

Florida poised to make DeSantis’ travel records secret

Open government advocates called it one of the worst ever proposed exemptions to the state’s much-lauded Sunshine Law.

Gov. Ron DeSantis waits as the crowd applauds during his remarks.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ use of state planes and other information about his official travel could soon be secret under a far-reaching bill that is coming while the Republican governor has been ramping up visits across the country ahead of a likely presidential campaign.

The Florida Senate passed the bill Wednesday by a 28-12 vote, with Republicans using their supermajority to pass the measure since the Florida Constitution requires exemptions to the state’s public records law to clear a required two-thirds threshold. The legislation heads next to the Florida House, where lawmakers are also expected to pass it.

Republicans contend they are pushing for the bill, SB 1616, at the urging of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the agency which now manages the state plane used by the governor and which has been inundated with record requests. GOP lawmakers asserted that releasing the information would allow someone to look for “patterns” that could jeopardize DeSantis’ security.

“Everything we do is monitored,” said Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples). “Bad actors can find out a lot. … I think it’s perfectly appropriate. Here we have a young governor who has young children, a young family. God forbid something would happen because information is out there.”

Republican supporters also said there was nothing in the legislation that would alter campaign finance laws that require state political officials to disclose when they use political committees or campaigns to pay for travel.

But Democrats ripped the bill as a way to keep DeSantis’ actions out of public view while open government advocates called it one of the worst ever proposed exemptions to the state’s much-lauded Sunshine Law.

“It’s so clearly an attempt to protect this information from reporters wanting to know how taxpayer money is being spent,” said state Sen. Tina Polsky, a Boca Raton Democrat.

Barbara Petersen, the executive director of the Florida Center for Government Accountability, called the legislation “stunning” and “unbelievable.”

“It’s beyond the pale,” said Petersen, an attorney who has tracked open records laws and issues for 30 years. “It blows a hole in the public records law. … This is a governor who doesn’t want anyone to know what he’s doing.”

Under then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott — a multimillionaire who owned his own jet — the state sold off planes used by the governor and other top officials. Scott sharply criticized two of his rivals in the 2010 governor’s race by pointing to news articles that detailed how they had used the state plane at the expense of taxpayers. In one instance, a state auditor questioned whether then-Attorney General Bill McCollum had misused state resources in how he used the state plane.

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