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Florida Leaders Want A Comprehensive Look At Collapse Causes Before Changing Code


I'm going to bring in Florida's lieutenant governor, Jeanette Nunez. Good morning, Lieutenant Governor.

JEANETTE NUNEZ: Good morning. How are you?

KING: You heard Brian Mann say there that there are still more questions than answers. Governor Ron DeSantis said this week that the Surfside condo, quote, "had problems from the start," and he cautioned against jumping to conclusions about what caused this to happen. What did he mean by that?

NUNEZ: What - I think what the governor meant is that he wants to make sure we have all of the answers before we proceed. He wants to make sure that we're understanding exactly what occurred in that particular circumstance before we make policy - or before we make changes without fully understanding the impact, what caused it. So I believe that we're not averse, that we absolutely would be willing to change. We will look at things in a comprehensive manner. But we also want to have the facts before we make changes.

KING: How concerned are you about other Florida high-rise residential construction that was built around the same time as this condominium?

NUNEZ: So I think that obviously it is incumbent upon those of us in positions of power to be able to assure residents that this is not something that's going to be happening in a widespread manner. And I think that's really the key as to why we need to find out what exactly happened there. Was it shoddy construction? Was it corruption? Was it the possibility of sea level rise? All of those things are being looked at very comprehensively.

We have all sorts of engineers, experts on hand, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology. They are embedded in the investigation. They have all sorts of technology - lidar scans. They're doing their tests. They're doing all the things that they do. They were on site during 9/11 as well - a wealth of experience, a wealth of knowledge, a wealth of expertise. So we really - not just for the sake of everyone that lives in condos, but certainly for those family members that desperately want answers. We want them just as badly as they do.

KING: Is the governor's office at this point discussing changes to residential building codes or to state inspection practices?

NUNEZ: So the Legislature - I know already several legislators have indicated that they will be filing legislation. Once those are drafted, we will take a look at it. We'll be involved as need be. But certainly, the correct place to start is at the local level. I know they are already doing that. And then we'll continue to monitor at the state level once the Legislature goes into session.

KING: OK. When President Biden visited the scene of the collapse, he pledged that he would send federal resources to the site. What resources will Governor DeSantis be asking for from the federal government? What do you need?

NUNEZ: Well, at this point, obviously, FEMA has been key for public assistance, for individual assistance. They continue to be involved and proactive on site, embedded with both Florida Division of Emergency Management as well as local county entities. So those are really the key aspects. As we move forward and as situations will continue to evolve, we will address whatever needs we have from the federal perspective, obviously, directly. But right now, it seems like we have all the key players in place and will continue to have conversations as we - as the situation develops.

KING: Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nunez, thank you so much for your time today. We appreciate it.

NUNEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.