Florida Gov. Rick Scott has been fighting all month against claims by former state employees that his administration banned the use of "climate change." With state workers now upping the ante — including news yesterday one state employee was ordered into a mental health exam for demanding to use the forbidden words — Scott has remained firm: There's no such policy, he insists.
Well, his state disaster chief's tragicomic performance in a Senate hearing yesterday isn't likely to help the governor's case. Bryan Koon, chief of the Florida Division of Emergency, stammered and smiled his way through a line of questioning when state senators tried to goad him into uttering those two magic words. He refused to take the bait.
Skip ahead to the 89th minute for the climate change clash:
The questioning came during a meeting yesterday of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development, when Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Democrat from Lake Worth, brought up the thorny controversy.
The feds, Clemens noted, had recently passed a new rule that could withhold FEMA cash for states who don't have a plan in place to mitigate climate change. Would that affect Florida?
Koons noted that the state has until 2018 to deal with the new rules, but carefully avoided repeating the words "climate change," instead saying the state would address "language to that effect.:
That's when the committee's chairman, Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, jumped in. "What were those words?" he asked.
As Koons smiles awkwardly, Clemens offers, "I used 'climate change,' but I'm suggesting as a state we might use 'atmospheric reemployment.'"
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The crowd laughed — and Latvala nearly bursts an artery howling at that one — but Koons still isn't off the hook. When he again refers to "the issue" instead of climate change, Clemens grins and asks, "What issue is that?"
"Uhh, the issue you mentioned earlier, regarding, uh, climate ..." Koons offers as Latvala nearly falls out of his chair laughing.
It's certainly an absurd moment, but — of course — it underscores a legit and ridiculous problem. Climate change is real. Sea levels are rising in Miami, right at this very moment. That rise may even be accelerating. And evidence is still mounting that our state's governor, in the interest of business, tourism, and continued real estate overdevelopment, refuses to let his staff even call the problem by its name.