Florida Legislature Moves to Shield DeSantis’s Travel Records

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The Florida Legislature passed a bill on Tuesday that would shield the travel records of Gov. Ron DeSantis and other top elected officials from public view, a significant change to the state’s vaunted sunshine laws as Mr. DeSantis explores a potential presidential campaign.

Though the law purports to shield Mr. DeSantis’s and other top officials’ travel records under the umbrella of increasing threats and operational security, it also includes a sweeping retroactive clause that would block the release of many records of trips already taken by Mr. DeSantis and other officials, as well as those taken by their families and staff members.

Mr. DeSantis has been facing increasing scrutiny for his use of private chartered flights — including questions about who paid for the travel and who flew with him — especially as his presidential ambitions come into clearer focus and he travels the country more extensively.

In years past, Florida’s expansive transparency laws have exposed officials’ abuses of state resources: In 2003, for example, Jim King, the president of the State Senate, was found to have used a state plane to fly home on the weekends.

The bill now heads to Mr. DeSantis’s desk. The governor has avoided directly commenting on the bill and has stated that he did not draft the initiative, but many Florida Republicans expect that he will sign it into law.

“It’s not necessarily something that I came up with,” Mr. DeSantis said on Monday at an event in Titusville. He added that the legislation was “motivated by a security concern” and that he had been receiving a lot of threats.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which is led by a DeSantis appointee, has also expressed support for the bill, stating in April that releasing travel details “represents a risk not only to those we protect, but also F.D.L.E. agents and citizens attending events.”

Critics of the bill, however, note that adding the retroactive clause does not fit with a security justification. “How is there a security issue for travel that’s already occurred?” said Barbara Petersen, the executive director of the Florida Center for Government Accountability, after the bill first advanced out of committee in April.

The proposed changes have drawn the attention of some of Mr. DeSantis’s potential Republican rivals for president.

“In recent months, Governor DeSantis has used taxpayer dollars to travel around the country for his 2024 presidential campaign, including to the early voting states of Iowa and Nevada,” the campaign of Donald J. Trump said in a statement last month. “DeSantis’s gubernatorial office, however, refuses to tell reporters — and the public — how much taxpayer money has been spent to fund these travels, or how much DeSantis’s April globe-trotting will cost.”

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