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A sea-level rise bill will get a vote in the Florida House

A man and a dog walk down a flooded street.
Ellis Rua
AP Photo
In this June 19, 2019 photo, 27-year-old Ben Honeycutt is shown walking his dog through a flooded Miami street cause by heavy rain. Some consider Miami the Ground Zero for any climate-related sea-level rise in the U.S. Many local residents and community leaders will be listening keenly for any proposals to stave off the effects of rising seas.

The Florida House could soon vote on a proposal that would help communities adapt to rising sea levels, but it wouldn't address what's driving the phenomenon: manmade climate change.

“There’s sort of two sides to this problem: There’s protecting our communities and making our communities more resilient to the issues of flooding and sea-level rise, but then there’s also stopping the causes of those problems," said Rep. Ben Diamond (D-St. Petersburg). Diamond was referring to greenhouse gas emissions, which are driving climate change.

Diamond filed two amendments that would've addressed that issue, but both failed in the Republican-controlled House.

The bill would create a statewide resilience office under the governor’s office. It would also allow for the appointment of a chief resilience officer.

One of Diamond's amendments would've required that officer to recommend policies to the governor and the legislature that would mitigate the effects of sea level rise and flooding. “This office has to have a broader charge of what resilience truly means if we want to save our state from the worst effects of climate change," Diamond said. "Right now we have what I consider to be a less than holistic charge in terms of what this office should be doing. I don’t think we can adapt our way out of climate change.”

Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera (R-Coral Gables) implied that manmade climate change isn't a real issue. “And I refuse to politicize this issue," she said. "Floridians don’t care about us scoring political points. They don’t care about what words we use. They care about action. They care about real results, and that’s what the bill does.”

In addition to creating an office of resilience, the bill would require the Department of Environmental Protection to put together a sea level rise and vulnerability data set. It would also require the Department of Transportation to create a resiliency action plan for the state’s highways.

The Senate hasn’t yet taken up its version of the bill, but it recently passed through the appropriations committee.

Valerie Crowder is a freelance journalist based in Tallahassee, Fl. She's the former ATC host/government reporter for WFSU News. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.