The Florida Cabinet met for the first time in four months Tuesday — and for only the second time since the coronavirus began. The four-member board made swift work of a modest agenda Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried complained excluded some of the most critical issues facing the state.
1. Why have Cabinet meetings become so rare?
At the direction of Gov. Ron DeSantis, a string of Cabinet meetings have been canceled since the pandemic hit last spring. Before Tuesday’s meeting, the most recent gathering was in May, when Fried appeared in person at the Capitol and the board’s three other members — including DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — joined by phone. Fried has alleged that DeSantis has purposefully limited meetings and agenda content to minimize discussion of the state’s approach to the virus.
2. What issues does Fried say aren’t being addressed?
COVID-19 data collection, the unemployment system crisis and food security are among the issues the agriculture commissioner — Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat — argues need attention from the Cabinet. In a prebuttal of sorts to Tuesday’s meeting, on Monday Fried hosted a virtual “Florida Cupboard” meeting. It featured some of the governor’s more outspoken critics, including Rebekah Jones, an architect of Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard who was fired by the DeSantis administration for insubordination. “If your Cabinet fails to put these issues on the agenda, if your Cabinet refuses to provide you with these updates, then I’m going to bring these updates to you,” Fried told listeners. “If the Cabinet’s closed, we’re going to open the cupboard.”
3. How is DeSantis reacting?
Addressing reporters following Tuesday’s meeting, the governor defended his administration’s handling of the pandemic – and the Cabinet’s role. “When you’re talking about the coronavirus and all the things that have happened, those are agencies that are by and large non-Cabinet agencies and so, or they’re executive agencies, and so, we’ve worked very hard,” he said.
4. What was on Tuesday’s agenda?
The items mainly concerned the state’s fiscal footing amid the economic shockwaves created by the pandemic.
5. When is the next Cabinet meeting?
It’s scheduled for October 20.