By Ralph De La Cruz
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Late in starting, and with storms being pushed north and west, it has thankfully been a quiet hurricane season in the Sunshine State.
But few Floridians breathe too easily when it comes to the H-word. Wait ‘til next year might be a Cubs fan’s lament, but here in Florida, it’s a reminder that the next Andrew or Katrina could simply be one hot summer away.
It is because of this state of perpetual vigilance, Floridians have long pushed for the creation of a national catastrophe fund. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has led the push, but he’s gotten help from a broad range of characters, such as former FEMA director James Lee Witt, Allstate Chairman and CEO Edward Liddy and a fair number of Floridians. And if ever there’s been a time to find allies toward that end, it would seem to be this year.
There were tornadoes that swept across the South and Midwest — most famously Missouri and Alabama. Devastating drought and fires in Texas. And, of course, the deadly flooding associated with Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
So when U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor came out all tea-party tough by declaring that disaster dollars needed to be off-set by additional cuts, there was a storm of protests from both Democrats and fellow Republicans.
As the Tampa Tribune pointed out, this would seem to be the perfect time to push for the National CAT Fund. Not only has much of the rest of the country become aware of the fickleness of disaster, but the presidential campaign will soon be rolling through the state. And last time that happened, everybody was falling over themselves to endorse the National CAT Fund idea.
Insead, Nelson finds himself fighting to preserve the fleet of “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft who fly out of Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base.
The Hurricane Hunters and National CAT Fund would seem to be a great opportunity for Gov. Rick Scott and the other U.S. senator, Marco Rubio — both huge tea party darlings who did not speak out against Cantor’s demands — to step up and help Nelson.