TALLAHASSEE – A new state law shielding Gov. Ron DeSantis’ travel records violates the state Constitution by blocking the public’s right to access government records and open meetings, a lawsuit filed by the Washington Post contends.
The suit, filed in Leon County Circuit Court, targets a law approved by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature just weeks before DeSantis kicked off his presidential campaign.
The measure was portrayed by Republican lawmakers as intended to safeguard the governor and his family. It shields from disclosure DeSantis’ spending of public funds and details on his travel aboard state and private jets and on international trade missions.
The filing of the lawsuit last week was first reported by Politico Florida.
DeSantis’ travel, both in-state and across the country, has raised questions about the governor deploying public dollars and state policy in efforts to advance his longshot bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
DeSantis is far behind GOP frontrunner, former President Donald Trump, in most polls, including in Florida, their shared home state.
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“The exemption sweeps from public view every record relating in any way to the expenditure of millions of taxpayer dollars each year, including the most basic information needed to inform the public about what those services are for,” the suit states.
Florida has a long history of granting the public open access to records and meetings, affirmed in state law and in a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1992. But the Legislature regularly enacts exemptions to the open government laws, similar to the travel shield approved in May.
The governor’s office and state agencies also commonly delay or demand payment of significant research costs when it comes to fulfilling public records requests, serving to further block access.
The Post lawsuit follows the media company’s attempt earlier this year to get records on DeSantis’ travel from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, whose agents provide security and accompany the governor on most of his trips.
Leon Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey responded to the Post’s legal challenge then by ordering FDLE to surrender “nonexempt public records.” But the agency cited the new travel shield in withholding many records, leading to the latest lawsuit.
John Kennedy is a reporter in the USA TODAY Network’s Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at email@example.com, or on X at @JKennedyReport