It’s fine if Gov. Ron DeSantis and the three members of the Florida Cabinet want to go to Israel on a trade mission. It’s not fine that they plan to hold a formal Cabinet meeting in another country. That violates at least the spirit of the state’s open meetings laws, and the governor and Cabinet should reconsider.
DeSantis announced this week that he and dozens of state lawmakers will traveling to Israel next month. The trip is being hosted by Enterprise Florida and aimed at promoting investment in the state, seeking insights on water and environmental issues and strengthening ties between Florida and Israel. All of that is in the public interest.
But it is not in the public interest to hold a Cabinet meeting and act on state business in Israel, more than 6,500 miles from where the meetings are typically held in Tallahassee. It’s hard enough for millions of Floridians to get the state capital, much less Jerusalem. Presumably, the Cabinet meeting will be available on the Internet. But there is a seven-hour time difference, and that also could make it difficult to keep an eye on your state government in action.
For local governments to comply with public meetings laws, residents must have a reasonable opportunity to attend. So the city council generally could not meet in a building off-limits to the public, and the Hillsborough School Board could not hold its regular meetings in Miami. The same concept should apply to the state Cabinet meetings, which Floridians have the legal right to attend and to be heard on many issues.
If the governor and Cabinet members want to take their show on the road, come to St. Petersburg.