The following editorial was published in The Daily Sun on May 17, 2023.
OUR POSITION: A new law further erodes Florida’s sunshine laws by hiding the records on when and where Gov. Ron DeSantis travels.
If our governor goes missing for a few days, don’t worry. His whereabouts are being protected for his own good.
That’s the reasoning being given for a new law recently signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that shields his travel records past, present and future along with those of other top state officials. The governor says the blacking out of his travel plans and records would prevent people from being able to map out his itinerary.
The governor told the press “with the security situation, how you do patterns of movements, if you’re somebody that is targeted, which unfortunately I am, and I get a lot of threats, that could be something that could be helpful for people that may not want to do good things.”
Of course we will easily be able to figure out where he is because he is making campaign- like speeches in a number of states that will be keys to the governor’s presidential aspirations. That includes trips to Iowa and Illinois that are labeled “political” trips.
We’re not sure what Florida politics or our state’s best interests have to do with what’s going on in Iowa but perhaps the governor is working on a big deal for corn. Or maybe he’s is looking for advice from Chicago officials on how to keep us safe.
The governor’s plans to run for president — unless his slide in polls compared to former President Donald Trump gives him second thoughts — is expected almost any day now. So it’s no shock that he will be traveling outside the state. And another new law, which allows him to run for president while keeping his job as governor, just makes that easier.
We have problems with the ban on announced travel plans. It is just one of several laws that continue to chip away at Florida’s once stringent sunshine laws. The more you chip away at something, the sooner and easier it collapses.
The governor, as an unannounced presidential candidate, is using Florida taxpayers’ money to make his best impression on states, and voters, all across the nation. Unless he is using funds from his multi-million- dollar campaign cache and keeping it quiet, then you are paying for his jaunts around the U.S.
According to multiple sources, DeSantis said the shield on travel plans was not his idea.
The governor insists, however, that he gets more than his share of threats. We certainly can sympathize with the high profile life he leads and we would not want to put his, or his family’s, life or health in jeopardy.
But, the new law does more than just keep the public from knowing when and where the governor goes, or how much his trip costs. We won’t know who travels with him on the state plane. And, in what seems like a stretch to us, the Miami Herald reports it would keep secret the names of people who visit the governor’s office and home.
Why? If a person is cleared to visit the governor, what security threat is it to release that person’s name.
Again, the path this new law takes is one that directly winds through and around our sunshine laws and that is what we find most troubling.
Image Credits: USA Today