After Democrats made repeated calls for Gov. Ron DeSantis to hold more regular Cabinet meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic, Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo is hoping to force his hand going forward.
Taddeo filed legislation (SB 642) that would require the Governor to schedule a Cabinet meeting “at least once every 2 months.” Absent such a meeting, the bill would then turn the scheduling power over to any individual member of the Cabinet. The Cabinet currently includes Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a DeSantis critic and potential 2022 gubernatorial opponent.
“If a meeting is not held within the prescribed timeframe,” Taddeo’s bill reads, “the Attorney General, the Chief Financial Officer, or the Commissioner of Agriculture may compel a meeting of the Cabinet to be held within 10 business days and propose agenda items for any such meeting.”
The Cabinet’s last meeting before the COVID-19 pandemic grabbed hold of the state was in early Feb. 2020. By March — when the outbreak began impacting Florida and the nation in earnest — some Democratic lawmakers were already calling on the Governor to coordinate a meeting with his Cabinet to formulate a response to the virus.
But March 2020 went by without a Cabinet meeting, as did April. Most of May passed too before the Cabinet finally met on May 28. Fried ripped into the Governor’s decisions at that meeting.
“Each of us was independently elected by the people of this great state,” Fried said, referring to the Cabinet members. “Each of us received more than 4 million votes and were put here to do a job. And for the most critical nearly 4 months of this pandemic, this Cabinet has been left in the dark.”
Fried also hammered the Governor for failing to take up several of her priority items during that late May meeting.
Taddeo’s bill would address those concerns, requiring a meeting every 2 months and giving Fried or another Cabinet member input on the agenda if a meeting is not held in that span.
DeSantis and his allies defended the lack of formal meetings, arguing DeSantis had a direct line with those Cabinet members as he responded to the crisis. The drama between DeSantis and Fried continued through the year, particularly as the Governor canceled a scheduled August Cabinet meeting.
Taddeo’s bill in response to the drama would likely be seen by Republicans as a shot at the Governor on behalf of Fried. It’s unclear whether it would get very far in the GOP-controlled Legislature. Should the bill pass, however, it would take effect on July 1.