Legislation to deal with effects of climate change is receiving support from both sides of the aisle.
The legislation, in two bills, seeks to help local communities adapt to rising sea levels and flooding by monitoring and mitigating adverse effects.
All members of the House’s Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee voted to support the two bills, now headed to their final stop in the State Affairs Committee.
The bills started out as proposals in the Environment, Agriculture and Flooding Subcommittee.
The legislation is backed by Speaker Chris Sprowls and was put forth by Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera.
“The effects of flooding are felt all across the state in both coastal and inland communities, and we must address these threats using a coordinated statewide approach, and this bill does just that,” Cabrera said during the meeting.
Funding for the items in the legislation would be subject to appropriation, with the proposal stipulating the price tag not exceed $100 million per year.
One of the bills (HB 7019) would create the Resilient Florida Grant Program, which authorizes the Department of Environmental Protection to provide grants to local governments to help combat rising sea levels.
The bill also requires DEP to start tracking flood vulnerability and sea level rise on an ongoing basis. The data would be used to inform a Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience Plan to be submitted to the Governor and the Legislature every three years.
The plan would consist of ranked projects chosen by DEP and submitted by local governments to address risks of flooding and sea level rise to coastal and inland communities. Each project must include a minimum 50% cost-share.
After praising the bill, a few committee members offered suggestions.
Leon County Rep. Allison Tant raised the issue that medium and smaller communities may have a difficult time reaching the 50% cost-share threshold. Cabrera said other representatives had brought up the issue as well.
“The goal here is to make sure that any municipality, any region, that needs funding to build a more resilient community has it. So, we are working on that issue,” Cabrera said.
Rep. Omari Hardy suggested tweaking the ranking process to ensure low-income communities have a fair shot.
“If there is an opportunity to continue to work with the Representative — who is spearheading a really fantastic bill – and committee staff to equalize those, that would turn this bill from an awesome bill to what I would consider to be an absolutely flawless, perfect, amazing step forward for the state of Florida,” Hardy gushed.
Cabrera indicated a willingness to work on that as well.
The bill also allows counties and municipalities to enter into agreements to form regional resilience coalitions, which could then coordinate solutions to adverse sea level rise across governments.
The bill would establish the Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation within the University of South Florida College of Marine Science in St. Petersburg. The hub would take the lead on innovation and research to improve flood monitoring and prediction. The hub would report its progress to the Governor and Legislature on an annual basis.
The bill requires the Office of Economic & Demographic Research to track governmental expenditures required to minimize the adverse economic effects of inland and coastal flooding.
A separate bill (HB 7021) establishes the Resilient Florida Trust Fund within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). DEP would use the trust as a funding source for the Resilient Florida Grant Program and the Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience Plan, including costs to operate the grant program, to develop the plan, to provide grants to regional resilience coalitions and for administrative and operational costs of the Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation.