In response to the widespread impacts of Hurricane Irma in Florida (all coastlines and virtually every community), Speaker Corcoran of the Florida House of Representatives has created a new Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness. Speaker Pro Tempore Jeanette Nunez of Miami will chair the 16-member bipartisan Select Committee whose focus will be to gather information, solicit ideas, and make recommendations to the governor and legislature for actions that will aid in Florida’s recovery. The topics proposed for consideration by the Select Committee include mitigation of future storm damage; efficient evacuation and re-entry; and protection of elderly, disabled, and other vulnerable people. Subjects of particular interest for those in the environmental and energy arena will be “innovative ways to avoid or reduce flooding” and efforts to limit power outages by “infrastructure hardening, solar lighting or underground utilities.” The Select Committee will also examine whether fuel reserves can be “established or expanded” to improve their availability for evacuees. Finally, although post-Hurricane Andrew building code changes were by most accounts, successful in protecting the public from wind damage, building code revision is another area of potential focus for the Select Committee. Because of the desire to take meaningful action to improve the state’s hurricane readiness, the Select Committee is expected to move quickly to formulate recommendations for tangible improvements to disaster response capabilities prior to the 2018 legislative session. On the Senate side, Senator Brandes is pushing Governor Scott to establish a special commission to examine hurricane readiness, response, and recovery, with an eye towards planning for future preparedness while learning from the experiences of this recent effort.
Post-hurricane restoration will be a priority for state and affected local governments in Florida, with resilience and infrastructure among the priority considerations. Stay tuned for future developments.