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First Amendment Foundation Weighs Options After Florida Cabinet Meeting in Israel

The Florida First Amendment Foundation and media organizations are weighing their options following a dismissed lawsuit against the governor and Cabinet for meeting in Israel this week.

The agenda for the Cabinet meeting was released a week ago, First Amendment Foundation President Barbara Petersen says the meeting was more than “ceremonial.” It covered three important issues to Florida: emergency management, clean water, and how to deal with victims of terror. Since it was held more than 6,000 miles away and livestreamed by only the Florida Channel questions about limited public access arose, which resulted in a lawsuit. Florida Channel is owned by WFSU.  

Although a judge dismissed the lawsuit, Petersen says Floridians have a constitutional right to attend a cabinet meeting. She’s floating two options to address the issue.

The first is to refile the complaint seeking declaratory relief.

“If the court said that meetings of the collegial body, in this case the cabinet, a meeting held outside the state of FL would be a violation of sunshine then that would enjoin, that would stop any other cabinet, future cabinet from meeting other than the boundaries of the state of FL, which is what we’re asking that they do,” says Petersen.

The second is a more diplomatic route:

"Where we go and we sit down perhaps with the attorney general, or with the cabinet, the governor and his staff and say look we have these concerns and they aren’t frivolous concerns,” said Petersen. 

“Not only were people allowed access to the meeting. We had an overflow room, We flied FEDA into the Cabinet room into Tallahassee, we’re confident we complied with the sunshine law,” said Attorney General Ashley Moody.

Governor Ron DeSantis maintains that its “frivolous” litigation.

The livestream was shown at the Capitol in the Cabinet meeting room Wednesday morning. The stream suffered from several glitches, including a four-minute blackout. Petersen says a plan of action from the foundation and media organizations will be available next week.