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South Florida Democrats Look To Get Beyond Partisan Climate Politics in Tallahassee

Emily Michot
Miami Herald

The story that Gov. Rick Scott's administration had banned the term "climate change" from state documents fueled national ridicule and environmentalist ire.

But ridiculing Republicans is no way to bring them on board to address the impacts of climate change, says one of South Florida's elected leaders.

"It's great fodder for late-night comedy shows to talk about Flori-duh, D-U-H, that we can't talk about climate change," said  state Rep. Kristin Jacobs, a Broward Democrat. "But the truth is, the state agencies are all doing some amazing work."

Jacobs, who spent 16 years as a Broward County commissioner, helped found the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact. She said even though she had worked in Tallahassee as a local official, she was still taken aback by the partisan atmosphere when she joined the state House last year.

But she said making fun of Republicans "is not moving the conversation in Tallahassee," and she's had more luck by simply talking to them and explaining South Florida's challenges with sea-level rise.

"This is an economic conversation. This is a commerce conversation that we need to be having in the state," she said.

Jacobs said her biggest frustration is that the different state agencies that are working on issues related to climate change are not sharing information. So she wants to require those agencies to "come out of their silos," describe their work and report annually to the governor and legislature.

Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez is also a South Florida Democrat — his district is in Miami-Dade — and he also wants the state to address climate change.

"The fact that you can't openly talk about climate change is a problem," he said. But he agreed that state agencies are working on issues like water management and extreme weather.

Rodriguez is the ranking Democrat on the state House finance and tax committee. He said his priority is to fund projects that will address those issues — even if they don't use the words "climate change."

"As much as we can get in the budget, not calling it climate change, that's what we should be doing," he said. "We have to be practical. We have to be very strategic in terms of how we accomplish things that we need to do, for our cities, for our counties, for our local communities."

Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
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