Miami Herald by Samantha J. Gross
June 17, 2019
When it was announced that Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida’s other top elected officials and nearly 100 top-tier lobbyists, business executives and academics were planning a historic trip to Israel in late May, the fuzzy details and lack of clarity surrounding the trip drew the ire of journalists and open government advocates who feared violations of Florida’s premier open government laws.
Florida’s open government, or “Sunshine” law, requires that the public be able to both view and offer comments during public meetings, but how much access is possible when the public meetings take place more than 6,000 miles from the Sunshine State?
A plurality (46 percent) of the Florida Influencers, a group of 50 prominent political and policy figures from across the state, said it was perfectly appropriate that the meeting was held abroad.
About 26 percent of Influencers said it was not appropriate, and 28 percent weren’t sure.
Gene Prescott, president of the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, said the meeting was kosher since it was “cosmetic,” or served to give exposure to the state, not to conduct state business.
“In a few days, it opened doors for Florida business to pursue opportunities with Israeli counterparts,” he said.
Bob McClure, president of Tallahassee-based James Madison Institute, agreed and suggested the definition of “open” be redefined. He mentioned that since technology like Skype and FaceTime exist, people can listen in other ways.