TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa Rep. Fentrice Driskell reintroduced legislation aimed at finding, preserving, and restoring historic and abandoned cemeteries in Florida. A previous attempt in 2022’s legislative session failed to pass.
The 2023 version, House Bill 49: Abandoned and Historic Cemeteries, would create a historic cemeteries program within Florida’s Division of Historical Resources, a part of the Department of State.
Like the 2022 version, the bill would create a Historic Cemeteries Program Advisory Council and allow certain entities to get conservation easements in order to preserve cemeteries in Florida. The easement for those purposes also come with an appropriation, should the proposed legislation pass.
In the version introduced to the state legislature in the last general session, the proposed cemetery program would have created what, at the time, Driskell called a “nexus for recording and updating records of cemeteries established at least 50 years ago, within the Florida master file site, or master site file, and in conjunction with the Florida archeological network.”
Additionally, if passed, Driskell’s cemetery legislation would create guidelines for a variety of state and local organizations and companies to identify, locate, and maintain abandoned and historic cemeteries in Florida.
The advisory council would also serve as an interagency liaison for “municipalities, planning departments, colleges and universities, and community organizations to facilitate collaboration and the sharing of information relating to abandoned and historic cemeteries.”
The University of South Florida’s Black Cemetery Network would also assist in coordinating inclusion of abandoned African-American cemeteries to their list of sites in Florida for research and record purposes, according to HB 49. If passed, the bill would take effect on July 1.