Florida Republicans Seek to Kill Law on Political Transparency for Elected Officials

For decades Florida has had a law like few states in the country: it promotes government transparency at all levels. From the governor to a simple councilor. Is called Sunshine Lawwhich in a very liberal translation could be something like “solar law”.

This law requires the disclosure of all public activities and prohibits the private discussion and agreement of conversations between officials on issues that concern the general population and on which they must decide.

But this week the state legislature passed a bill that hacks at that concept and would immediately hide the travel records of Gov. Ron DeSantis and other elected officials from the public. It’s a substantive change to much-vaunted state law as DeSantis explores a potential presidential run.

While the law is intended to protect the governor’s travel records under the umbrella of increased threats and security, it also includes a retroactive clause blocking the release of many travel records already made by DeSantis and other officials, as well as their family members and collaborators.

DeSantis is facing increasing scrutiny for his use of private chartered flights. For example, questions about who paid for the trip and who flew with him, especially as his presidential ambitions become clearer and he moves more widely across the country.

In previous years, Florida’s transparency laws have exposed abuses of state resources by officials. In 2003, for example, it was discovered that Jim King, the president of the state Senate, used a state plane to fly to his home on weekends.

The bill now heads to the desk of DeSantis, who has avoided commenting directly on it, saying he didn’t write it. Many Florida Republicans, who control the House and Senate, hope he will sign it into law.

“It’s not necessarily something that came to my mind,” DeSantis said at an event in Titusville, north of Miami. He added that the legislation was “motivated by a security issue” and that he has received many threats.

The Florida Police Department is run by a person designated by the Governor. This official also expressed his support for the project. He stated in April that disclosing travel details “represents a risk not only for those we protect, but also for our agents and the citizens attending the events.”

However, critics of the project point out that adding the retroactive clause does not fit with a security justification. “How is it that there is a security problem in the case of trips that have already occurred?” said Barbara Petersen, executive director of the Florida Center for Government Accountability, after he first advanced out of committee in April. The proposed changes have drawn the attention of some of DeSantis’ potential Republican rivals for president. Even former President Donald Trump. That while he was in the White House, and since, he has tried to hide many of his activities.

“In recent months, Governor DeSantis has used taxpayer dollars to travel across the country for his 2024 presidential campaign, including early voting states like Iowa and Nevada,” the Trump campaign said in a statement.

However, “DeSantis’ governor’s office refuses to tell reporters and the public how much taxpayer money has been spent to fund these trips or how much DeSantis’ April Globetrotter will cost,” he added.

DeSantis has recently returned from a trip to Japan, South Korea and Israel. He has given very few details. Supposedly, he was destined to probe the possibilities of being received by those important partners of the United States in the event that he reaches the White House in November 2024.

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