DeSantis’ transports angered Democrats and civil rights groups, who accused the governor of using asylum seekers for a political stunt. Several Democrats have urged the Justice Department to investigate the Republican governor, and a Texas sheriff has also opened an investigation of him over the flights.
Pizzo contends in his lawsuit that the $12 million the Republican-led Legislature set aside for the relocation program violates state laws regarding the budget, including a state constitutional requirement that lawmakers must not enact substantive policies in the bill. of annual expenses.
So far, Florida has spent at least $1.56 million with the provider that helped organize the first flights. The state paid the carrier, Vertol Systems Company, Inc., $615,000 to transport the migrants to Martha’s Vineyard and another $950,000 for what is believed to be a future flight.
But Pizzo’s lawsuit also claims that state officials, including those with the Department of Transportation, have not followed guidelines for the relocation program drafted by the Florida Legislature in budget language, including that the money was spent on food, rooms hotel accommodations and even haircuts for immigrants in Texas who were eventually sent to Martha’s Vineyard.
It also says the state is violating a new state immigration law that was passed this year by state lawmakers at the urging of DeSantis because the migrants were transported from Texas and not Florida. The flight carrying the migrants made a brief stopover in Florida before continuing on to Martha’s Vineyard.
“The governor had legislators introduce and pass bills that were designed to fit his agenda and that he signed into law,” Pizzo said in an interview. “And yet he still can’t meet the requirements and restrictions.”
The lawsuit is not unexpected, as Pizzo and other Democrats in the Legislature have questioned for days whether the spending followed a paragraph provision included in the new state budget that took effect July 1.
The money for the relocation program came from interest earnings on the $5.8 billion that Congress sent to the state as part of the American Rescue Plan. State lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the budget, with only a handful of lawmakers voting against it.
Pizzo’s lawsuit was filed against DeSantis, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Department of Transportation and DOT Secretary Jared Perdue. Florida’s chief financial officer is an elected position.
“Senator Pizzo never misses an opportunity for his 15 minutes of fame and he is challenging an action on an appropriation he voted for,” DeSantis Communications Director Taryn Fenske said.
Frank Collins, a spokesman for Patronis, noted that Democratic senators, including Pizzo and Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, voted in favor of the budget that included the $12 million appropriation. He also noted that the lawsuit was filed by a lawyer who has worked for Democrats.
“Now that the law they voted for is being implemented and shedding light on the border crisis, Pizzo and Book have gone back to their same old playbook and hired a Democratic operative attorney to go after the executive branch for following the law.” he said she in a statement. “We received the filing and are currently exploring options for sanctioning action and/or countersuit.”
DeSantis’ decision to seek millions to relocate those who entered the country illegally was prompted by nearly 80 federally sponsored flights to Florida last year. DeSantis first told reporters in November that he was considering a plan to bus immigrants to Delaware, the home state of President Joe Biden.
DeSantis said Thursday that he was “proud” of the attention his transport brought to Martha’s Vineyard, adding that it forced people to focus on Biden’s border policies. Multiple media outlets reported this week that the US has made more than 2 million immigrant arrests along the southern border in the past 11 months.
“This was not an issue of concern two weeks ago,” DeSantis said during a news conference in Miami. “Now it seems to be in the foreground.”