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Nikki Fried jabs at Gov. DeSantis for Cabinet meeting cancellation

The meeting was scheduled for Aug. 11.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried took a jab at Gov. Ron DeSantis Wednesday after he canceled yet another Cabinet meeting.

The meeting was scheduled to take place on Aug. 11, the same month Florida public schools are ordered to reopen.

“So, it’s safe for schools to reopen, but it’s NOT safe to hold a Cabinet meeting?” Fried asked. “Makes sense.”

Since February, DeSantis has canceled all but one Cabinet meeting and has yet to hold a Clemency Board meeting. His alleged lack of communication with Cabinet members, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been criticized by Democrats and become a vulnerable spot in the Governor’s armor.

At the previous Cabinet meeting in May, which took place four months after its most recent previous meeting, Fried seized the moment as an opportunity to cut loose on DeSantis.

“There is no reason in the midst of a global pandemic that has seen over 2,300 Floridians perish, over 51,000 sickened and over 1 million Floridians unemployed that this cabinet should not have met since February to consider state business,” she said at the May meeting.

Florida, constitutionally, is uniquely situated in comparison to other states. The Florida Constitution calls for a Cabinet consisting of three elected officials including the Attorney General, the Chief Financial Officer, and the Commissioner of Agriculture.

In 1968, Floridians ratified the state constitution to remove the phrase “the Governor shall be assisted by” the Cabinet.

According to the state’s official website and as Fried pointed out, the ratification was not made without reason.

“This gave each member equal footing with the Governor on matters that come before the Governor and Cabinet so that Cabinet members were no longer expected, constitutionally, to capitulate to the Governor’s wishes,” the state website explains.

As the state’s highest elected Democrat, Fried serves alongside two Republicans in the Cabinet, CFO Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Ashley Moody.

Florida Politics reached out to both officials for comment.

In a statement, Moody’s office reiterated that scheduling remains the Governor’s prerogative.

“The Executive Office of the Governor sets the Cabinet schedule, and the Attorney General looks forward to discussing Cabinet issues during the next open, public meeting,” said Public Affairs Director Lauren Cassedy.

Patronis’ office, meanwhile, maintained that the CFO is in constant dialogue with other Cabinet agencies.

“As Governor DeSantis is leading the state’s pandemic response with hope and optimism, CFO Patronis is in constant communication with Cabinet agencies to ensure any important questions or concerns are being raised and addressed,” said Communications Director Devin Galleta.

The next Cabinet meeting is scheduled for Sep. 22 and a Clemency Board meeting is set for the following day, according to the Cabinet’s calendar.

Written By

Jason Delgado covers news out of the state capital for Florida Politics. After a stint with the U.S. Army, Jason attended the University of Central Florida where he studied American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. Throw him a line at jason@floridapolitics.com or on Twitter at @JasonDelgadoFL.

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