The Florida Legislature has two more weeks to move on the creation of a statewide resiliency task force. The group of appointees would provide the state’s official estimates of sea level rise, if it gets the chance.
“Governor DeSantis took an unprecedented step here in Florida to appoint Florida’s first chief resiliency officer, Dr. Julia Nesheiwat,” said Republican Senator Tom Lee, who chairs the Infrastructure and Security committee.
The panel behind the committee bill creating the task force. At its last committee stop earlier this month, he touted the creation of the Chief Resiliency Officer position in August.
“Dr. Nesheiwat has been tasked with coordinating statewide response to prepare for environmental, physical, and economic challenges facing our state,” Lee said in early February. “We have over 1,350 miles of relatively low-lying coastline.”
Even some critics of the longtime Republican-controlled legislature praised Governor Ron DeSantis for the move, hailed at the time as a bold step for Republican leadership, and standing in stark contrast to the previous administration of then-Gov. Rick Scott.
Nesheiwat recently took a new job in the Trump administration as the President’s homeland security advisor. That news broke just a week ago, erasing what would have been Nesheiwat’s key role in a potential task force on sea level rise
“We do two things in this bill – the bill establishes in Florida statute, the office of the chief resilience officer within the office of the governor,” Lee explained, “And directs the chief resilience officer to lead a statewide sea level rise task force to establish consensus baseline projections of anticipated sea level rise and flooding impacts along Florida’s coasts.”
Now, it’s uncertain who will helm the theoretical task force. A replacement for Nesheiwat hasn’t yet been announced. The other members of the task force would look something like this:
“Chief science officer of the Department of Environmental Protection will serve as vice chair, one member appointed by the Senate President, one member appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives, one representative each from the Department of Transportation, Division of Emergency Management, Department of Agriculture … Fish and Wildlife Commission, and the Department of Economic Opportunity, each appointed by his or her respective agency head, division director, executive director, or commission chair.”
Lee wasn’t available for interview Friday to give a progress report on the bill’s prospects in the waning days of session. The Senate’s proposal is awaiting a second reading on the floor. The House’s version has yet to clear its final committee stop.
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