Gov. Ron DeSantis and members of the Florida Cabinet met in a ceremonial meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Wednesday. It was all part of the the governor’s trade mission to Israel this week.
The meeting was deemed ceremonial by the Governor’s Office after questions were raised about the legality of holding a state Cabinet public meeting some 6,000 miles overseas that is virtually inaccessible to the general public.
On Tuesday, the First Amendment Foundation and various media outlets filed suite trying to block the meeting claiming it violated a constitutional requirement that government meetings be open to the public.
“The fact that there even saying, ‘Oh, it’s only ceremonial, therefore we don’t have to open it to the public’ shows to me a basic misunderstanding of the Sunshine Law,” Barbara Petersen, president of the Foundation, told the Associated Press.
“This has nothing to do with the trade mission,” Petersen continued. “This has everything to do with our Cabinet holding a meeting in a foreign county. And I don’t care if they were holding the meeting in Montana, I’d have the same concern.”
While the governor’s office has insisted the meeting is ceremonial, the groups that filed suit contend that isn’t the case. However, A Leon Circuit Court judge denied the motion blocking the meeting because attorneys for DeSantis and Cabinet officials had not been served with copies of the suit.
“It’s totally baseless and meritless,” DeSantis told reporters Wednesday. “Here’s the thing, sometimes we’ll do Cabinet meetings on the phone. Sometimes there’s not even a physical location at all.”
The meeting was streamed live on The Florida Channel.
The meeting got off to a bumpy start. It was to begin with an invocation given from the Cabinet room at the state Capitol in Tallahassee, but the call was disconnected and after two minutes of trying to reconnect the phone line, the governor asked Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis to give the prayer
“It’s great to be in Jerusalem today for this historic meeting of members of the Florida Cabinet,” DeSantis said after leading the attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance. DeSantis also presented a resolution pledging Florida’s support for Israel.
The meeting lasted for about 40 minutes and topics were limited to issues relevant to both Florida and Israel including water quality and desalinization, and emergency management.
It lasted for about 40 minutes and topics were limited to issues relevant to both Florida and Israel including water quality and desalinization, and emergency management.
The Cabinet meeting followed the 2019 Israel-America Business Summit at which DeSantis was the keynote speaker.
“Israel and the United States, especially Florida, have a sound economic bond that we are working to strengthen even further on this historic business development mission,” DeSantis said. “Whether it be increased investment between our two nations, more options for commercial flights for our residents or the exchanging of innovative technological advancements, we are always looking for ways to build on our relationship.”
During the Summit, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Israel-America Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
“Florida and Israel have a long history of strong cooperation in key economic sectors, and by signing an MOU with our Israeli Chamber partners, small businesses in Florida and Israel stand to gain stronger economic benefits through strategic trade and investment partnerships,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.