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

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Bill to create statewide resiliency office ready for Senate floor

On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved legislation to create a Statewide Office of Resiliency in the Governor’s office and create a Statewide Sea-Level Rise Task Force.

SPB 7016 was the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee committee bill.

The legislation continues a recent environmental tack toward acknowledging climate science, a novelty to some degree in Tallahassee despite the impact of climate change and sea-level rise.

During the Rick Scott era, the concept of “climate change” was officially discounted. However, Scott has trumpeted his “record environmental spending” in statements and media releases both during and after his time in the Governor’s Mansion.

The bill, presented by Sen. Tom Lee, “codified” the Office of Resiliency.

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

In the media release announcing her appointment, Nesheiwat mentioned that she was a Lake County native, and also used the once-verboten phrase “climate change.”

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.

Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson wondered if the task force would have diversity, but the bill makes no provision for that.

In support of the legislation: Resiliency Florida, the city of St. Augustine.

Sen. Tom Lee, addressing the committee bill, said that without real data, it’s “hard to adjust public policy to what we might see” in future decades.

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

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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