Advocacy Efforts to Protect Florida's Cemeteries
Updated: Mar 22
On Thursday February 23rd, the Constitutional Rights, Rule of Law & Government Operations Subcommittee voted favorably on House Bill 49.
House Bill 49: Abandoned and Historic Cemeteries, introduced by Representative Fentrice Driskell, would create a historic cemeteries program within Florida's Division of Historical Resources. It's companion bill, Senate Bill 430, was filed by Senator Powell.
"This is about humanity, this is about how we give respect to the people who paved the way for us in this great state, this is not a partisan issue, it is a humanitarian issue. I am excited to bring honor and dignity back to these cemeteries"
- Representative Driskell
The legislation would initiate a Historic Cemeteries Program Advisory Council and require the Historic Cemeteries Program to provide grants to certain entities to conduct research, repair, restore, or maintain abandoned African American Cemeteries.
The program would create a "central body for recording the abandoned cemeteries in Florida's master site file records, it will develop guidelines for the identification and maintenance of abandoned cemeteries, and will operate as a liaison 'to organizations that are reaching out to and working on the abandoned cemeteries'."
House Bill 49 would be a critical resource to all Floridians. Unfortunately, abandonment and neglect are issues that happen all too frequently with cemeteries. These are complex issues that pertain to land ownership and property rights, and local communities are not equipped with the resources necessary to deal with these complicated matters.
Representative Rachel Plakon of District 36 recounted how important this bill would be to Seminole County. In September of 2022, Seminole County sustained extreme hurricane damage caused by Hurricane Ian. One of the many areas impacted by flooding was a cemetery in Geneva. To this day, the county does not have the adequate resources to fix the burial vaults underground.
On the federal level, the 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Bill established the African American Burial Grounds Preservation Act. The act authorizes the National Parks Service to coordinate initiatives designed to identify, interpret, research, preserve, and record African-American burial grounds that have been left unmarked, previously abandoned, or underserved.
Help us bring this important legislation to Florida.
We will be tracking this bill and providing you updates as session continues forward.
How Can You Help?
Lastly, reach out to any member of the Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability or the Appropriations Committee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development and ask them to support SB 430. Or, reach out to any member of the Infrastructure& Tourism Appropriation Subcommittee or the State Affairs Committee and ask them to support HB 49