What do top-tier lobbying and law firms, the Florida Realtors association and an Israel bond organization have in common?
They all sponsored events for members of a delegation that Gov. Ron DeSantis led to Israel in late May.
A list of seven sponsors was included in a “confidential” draft itinerary put together by Enterprise Florida, an economic-development agency that receives state and private money. The agency helped the governor plan the trip, and the draft itinerary was shared with the nearly 100-member delegation days before it jetted off to Israel with DeSantis and Florida Cabinet members.
Ahead of the trip, most of the details were kept under wraps including sponsorships, the itinerary and estimates of the total cost of the trip.
But more than a month after the trip ended, those details are seeping through public records obtained by The News Service of Florida. In addition to revealing information about private sponsors for the trip’s receptions, the records show that Florida Cabinet members and staff members spent at least $30,000 in tax dollars on airfare, hotel rooms and other travel costs.
Seven organizations sponsored receptions during the six-day trip, meant to solidify Florida’s relationship with Israel, according to the itinerary Enterprise Florida shared with the delegation.
Sponsors included Geeks and Nerds, a cybersecurity and software company; the GrayRobinson law and lobbying firm; the Greenberg Traurig law and lobbying firm; Visit Florida, the state’s tourism-marketing agency; the Florida Realtors association; Israel Bonds, which sells Israel bonds in the United States; and Tellus, a digital health-care company.
The events included a reception at the Tel Aviv residence of U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, sponsored by Florida Realtors and Greenberg Traurig, and a dinner hosted by Israel Bonds with Israeli business leaders.
Visit Florida, which sponsored a reception on the second night of the trip, announced on Tuesday that there will be new air service between Tel Aviv and Orlando. El Al Israel Airlines has agreed to provide direct summer flights between Orlando International Airport and Tel Aviv in July and August.
As a public-private agency, Enterprise Florida helped organize the trip through financial support it gets from the state and private donations. Sponsorships are one of the ways that Enterprise Florida receives private funding, said Kathleen Keenan, an agency spokeswoman.
‘JURY IS OUT’ ON AGE CHANGE
Doubts remain about a new state law that lowers the minimum age to be a state correctional officer.
Florida Police Benevolent Association Vice President Jim Baiardi, whose organization represents corrections officers, called the move "an act of desperation" to deal with the state prison system's problems with vacant positions.
"The jury is out on it --- only time will tell if it works," Baiardi told The News Service of Florida on Wednesday. "But think about how desperate we go to have 18-year-olds (as officers) in prisons."
Baiardi said hopes to see pay raises for correctional officers that would provide an incentive for people to fill the vacancies.
The new law (HB 7057) allows 18-year-olds to work in state prisons and county jails. Before July 1, the minimum age was 19.
The law was crafted and backed by the Florida Department of Corrections to expand the "base for correctional officers within the state prison system to help address growing staffing shortages."
In signing the bill, DeSantis said the new law is "opening more doors to young women and men to begin an honorable public safety career in our state."
NOTHING YET TO SEE HERE
Ten days after a deadline to file annual financial disclosure forms, more than two dozen lawmakers had not filed the paperwork.
As of Thursday morning, the following senators had not filed forms: Republican Kelli Stargel of Lakeland and Democrats Randolph Bracy of Orlando, Janet Cruz of Tampa, Gary Farmer of Fort Lauderdale, Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville, Jason Pizzo of North Miami Beach, Kevin Rader of Delray Beach and Annette Taddeo of Miami. Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, has received an extension until Aug. 15.
Forms remained outstanding from the following House members: Democrats Bruce Antone, Kamia Brown, Kimberly Daniels, Tracie Davis, Bobby DuBose, Joseph Geller, Mike Gottlieb, Al Jacquet, Anika Omphroy, Shannon Pritchett, Emily Slosberg, Geraldine Thompson, Clovis Watson, and Matt Wilhite; and Republicans Bryon Donalds, Juan Fernandez-Barquin, Jason Fischer and Spencer Roach.
The forms require disclosure of an estimated net worth as of the end of the prior year, a listing of assets valued at more than $1,000, a listing of liabilities of more than $1,000 and information about income.
State officials face a July 1 deadline each year for filing the reports. But there is a two-month “grace period” to file the reports before any penalties may be assessed.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: “Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was an influential educator, leader and civil rights activist who became one of our nation’s most influential leaders. Once complete in 2020, her statue will represent Florida to visitors from around the world.” --- Gov. Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) on a likeness of Bethune that will go in National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.