Our 2021 Florida Legislative Session Wrap Up
For two years members of the Florida Trust have been working with legislative bill sponsors and stakeholders on language that would have impacted local governments' review of building designs. The Florida Trust and allies tracked relentlessly adverse language to historic preservation in the waning days of the 2021 Regular Session.
The final week of Session saw the original legislation HB 55 by Representative Overdorf and SB 284 by Senator Perry amended into SB 1146. This bill became a large legislative “train” that was not finalized until the final hours of the session on April 30. Florida Trust members were able to mitigate any language that would have impacted building designs and demolition decisions to historic preservation districts. The Trust is thankful to bill sponsors and staff, lobbyists, and most importantly you, the members, for contacting your state lawmakers and drawing their attention to historic preservation.
Finally, HB 37 passed on the next to the last day and awaits action by Governor DeSantis. The bill would create a statewide task force for abandoned African American cemeteries in Florida and passed unanimously in both chamber of the Legislature. Early conversations of such a task force began in 2019 with the rediscovery of hundreds of graves underneath a public housing development in Tampa.
Since then, other abandoned cemeteries have been discovered through out Florida. The task force, which would be led by the Secretary of State, would have appointed representatives from the NAACP, the Florida African American Heritage Preservation Network, the Bureau of Archaeological Research, the Florida Public Archeology Network, the Florida Council of Churches and local governments.
Representative Fentrice Driskell drafted the legislation for the task force that will study the extent unmarked or abandoned African American cemeteries and burial grounds exist through the state. The ten-member task force administered through the Department of State will also develop and recommend strategies for identifying and recording cemeteries and burials ground while preserving local history.
Funding levels for this year's Division of Historical Resources grants were disappointing. Special Category grants were not funded at all. Small matching grants were funded at about $2.2 million.
A preservation tool we advocated for during this legislative session was a Florida Historic Tax Credit. Florida is currently one of only 12 states that does not have a statewide historic tax credit.
In 2020, we worked with a collaboration of preservationists from around Florida and the country to create bill language creating a tax credit of up to 30% of the cost of rehabilitating historic buildings, which we entered into bill drafting. Unfortunately, the sponsors we identified for the bill were moved to use their bill slots on other pressing legislation, so the bill did not move through the legislative process this year.
A state historic tax credit, when paired with the existing Federal Income Tax Credit for Historic Rehabilitation, would provide one more enticement to property owners to restore and reuse historic buildings. Given our belief in the importance of this credit, we will work during the summer to build on our grassroots coalition and continue our outreach to lawmakers - and we will work the process again in 2022!
We need you to help us advocate so we can keep the momentum going! We're building a Tax Credits Coalition and are looking for supporters to help let our legislators know how important this incentive would be for the future of Florida's landscape. Let us know if you'd like to help out!