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Coastal Resiliency Bills to Watch This Session

April 12, 2021
By Luke Miller
Environmental Policy Intern
During this year’s state legislative session, the Florida Senate and House of Representatives are hearing several bills related to coastal resiliency and sea level rise preparedness.
Arguably the most impactful bills of this session are SB 514 and its identical House companion, HB 315. These bills propose the creation of a statewide Office of Resiliency and a Sea-Level Rise Task Force within the Executive Office of the Governor. By passing this legislation, Gov. Ron DeSantis would appoint a Chief Resiliency Officer who will chair the task force and prepare the state for future climate-driven impacts.
According to a report by the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, “The task force must develop and recommend consensus baseline projections of the expected sea level rise for planning horizons designated by the task force.” Creating this task force would encourage statewide action on climate change-driven impacts, allowing for more coordinated resiliency policies that will help Florida weather the impacts for years to come. 
Another set of important bills is SB 1954/HB 7019. These bills will establish the Resilient Florida Grant Program within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). This program would enable the DEP to provide funds to municipalities for resilience-related projects, assessments, and more. It would also develop a statewide data set to determine climate-related risks to our communities, and assessments that identify critically important infrastructure which must be protected.
Finally, these bills would create the Statewide Flooding and Sea-Level Rise Resilience Plan. Each year, the DEP will submit an outline for up to $100 million in funding for projects that will address flood and sea level rise risks. Local governments and regional entities may also submit proposals for similar projects through this plan. Florida’s coastal communities would reap huge benefits from continued investment in resilient infrastructure over the years and would be put in a better position to thrive in the future. 
Not all of the environmental bills in the legislature are as forward-looking as these, however. SB 1236/HB 617, for example, proposes a prohibition on “the adoption and enforcement of certain state and regional programs to regulate greenhouse gas emissions without specific legislative authorization.” These bills tie the hands of regional and local governments and organizations in the fight against further climate change.
It’s important to provide local governments with the ability to enact policies that reflect the values and interests of their constituents, and this legislation would prevent that. Bills like this one remind us that, as Florida residents, we must get involved with politics at the state level, reach out to our representatives, and make our voices heard.
The fight against climate change necessitates our collective action, and with enough support, we can ensure that our elected state lawmakers pass legislation that will provide a safe, natural future for the next generations of Floridians.
Click to get contact information for your representatives at the Florida Senate and the Florida House of Representatives.


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