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Storm-flooded St. Augustine, pictured, exemplifies the need for a statewide resiliency strategy. 

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Resiliency, sea level proposal emerges in House

The bill already has momentum in the Senate.

On Friday, the House version of a Senate bill that establishes parameters for the statewide Office of Resiliency was filed.

HB 1073, filed by St. Johns County Republican Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, would create a Statewide Office of Resiliency in the Governor’s office and create a Statewide Sea-Level Rise Task Force.

The language in the Stevenson bill matches a Senate committee bill that is already moving through the process, legislation that codifies the Resiliency Office.

In July, Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Dr. Julia Nesheiwat as Florida’s first Chief Resilience Officer.

In the media release announcing her appointment, Nesheiwat, a Lake County native, used the once-verboten phrase “climate change.” This word choice signaled a philosophical break from the policy under the previous Governor, who was coyly dismissive of the concept.

The committee bill also establishes a sea-level rise task force that will include Nesheiwat, the Chief Science Officer from the Department of Environmental Protection, and others.

DEP would also administer a $500,000 budget for studies conducted or evaluated by the task force.

Also included in the task force: one appointee each from the House Speaker and Senate President, and representatives of the Department of Transportation, Division of Emergency Management. Department of Agriculture, Division of Fish and Wildlife, and Department of Economic Opportunity.

The task force sunsets in 2023. It convenes in 2020, with recommendations due by Jan 1, 2021.

If adopted, the projections would serve as the state’s official estimates for sea-level rise and flooding impacts and would be used in developing future state plans and projects. The bills come after DeSantis in August appointed Julie Nesheiwat as the state’s first chief resilience officer. They are filed for consideration during the 2020 legislative session, which starts Jan. 14.

The Senate version has two more committee stops: Environment and Natural Resources and Appropriations.

Stevenson’s bill has yet to get committee references; however, with the measure being a clear priority of the Governor, it should have momentum.

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The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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