Why A Miami-Dade Senator Is Wearing Rain Boots To The Start Of The Legislative Session

Jan 9, 2018

One of South Florida’s state senators is making a fashion statement as the state legislative session starts Tuesday.

Sen. José Javier Rodríguez (D-37) plans to wear rain boots to draw attention to sea-level rise and flooding in his district, which includes parts of Cutler Bay, Coral Gables and Key Biscayne.

"This is part of the job now, right? I mean, this is business attire for me in different parts of the district," he said. The black boots feature a message in white marker: #actonclimateFL . Rodriguez said he's already been wearing them to visit areas that flooded after rainstorms.

"They're not as clean as they used to be," said Rodríguez about the boots. 

Rodríguez, a Democrat who is campaigning in the race to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in the U.S. Congress, says he wants to make 2018 the year when Florida takes significant, unified action on sea-level  rise and climate change. In addition to sunny-day flooding, a unified projection for Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties forecasts two feet of sea-level rise by 2060, and a number of studies, including the 2014 National Climate Assessment, have found that global warming likely increases hurricanes' intensity, duration and rainfall.

A detail of Senator José Javier Rodríguez's boots, featuring the hashtag #actonclimateFL
Credit Kate Stein / WLRN News

Going into the legislative session, Rodríguez has proposed a bill that would require builders of state-financed construction projects to study the potential impacts of sea-level rise on their projects. The bill, SB 542, would compel the state Department of Environmental Protection to approve those studies before construction can begin. The DEP would also have to develop rules for reviewing sea-level projections, which don't currently exist -- unsurprisingly, since DEP officials were once banned from using the words "climate change" and Gov. Rick Scott and other top lawmakers, including House Speaker Richard Corcoran, avoid talking about the issue.

Rodríguez said he thinks "the biggest resistance to dealing with sea-level rise is not ideological."

"Many of my colleagues are simply overwhelmed. There's a lot of science. It's a huge problem. There's a big price tag," he said. "This bill is aimed at saying, here are some of the concrete things we can do to start planning, to start having best practices and better coordination so we can tell the people of Florida we actually have a plan."