Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, an independently-elected member of the Florida Cabinet, offered the following remarks at the May 28, 2020 meeting of the Florida Cabinet.
I am glad that the Cabinet met here today. This is a constitutional obligation that we have. We are the only state in the nation with a Cabinet that constitutionally governs together over numerous state agencies and responsibilities.
Let me also be clear: there is no reason, in the midst of a global pandemic that has seen over 2,300 Floridians perish, over 51,000 Floridians sickened, and over one million Floridians unemployed, that this Cabinet should not have met since February to consider state business, and to receive updates on our state’s response to COVID-19.
Each of us on the Cabinet was independently elected by the people of this great state. 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.
The Governor should recall that I formally requested that the Surgeon General and other officials from your Department of Health appear here today to discuss decisions around the COVID-19 data on which our state, and its re-opening, relies. But that wasn’t on the agenda.
He should recall that I formally requested that the Department of Revenue and the OFR Commissioner update the Cabinet on the state’s financial standing, given the $773 million in revenue lost in March, the $878 million lost in April, and the projected $800 million lost in May, not to mention what our state has spent responding to COVID-19. But that wasn’t on the agenda.
He should recall that I asked to have our division directors update the Cabinet on urgent issues, including the feeding of millions of Florida’s children and families during COVID-19, and the wildfires that have burned thousands of acres and prompted evacuations as we’ve dealt with severe drought. But those weren’t on the agenda.
These agenda requests were made in good faith and were not acknowledged, let alone fulfilled. That’s a real shame for everyone who deserves the truth.
Floridians expect our government to be united, especially during this time of unprecedented challenges to the state we all love. But we can’t do that without information and without transparency. So I hope going forward, we’ll start doing what our Constitution requires, which is governing together.