Marie Woodson files bill to include slain federal agents’ survivors in property tax exemption
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 11/30/21- Rep. Marie Paule Woodson, D-Hollywood, during the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, Tuesday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

The bill arises from the death of two FBI agents killed while trying to serve a search warrant in a child porn case.

State law exempts widows or widowers of first responders killed in the line of duty from paying property taxes — but survivors of two slain FBI agents recently discovered the break applies only to state and local first responders.

Now, though, Democratic Rep. Marie Woodson filed legislation (HB 101) last week that would expand the definition of “first responders” to include federal agents. It would also apply to federal agents permanently disabled in the line of duty.

“In the spirit of fairness, the federal officers killed in the line of duty and their spouses should be entitled to the same benefits as their state and local counterparts,” Woodson said, according to a prepared statement. “We must ensure the process of legislative tax exemptions are equitable for the men and women who put their lives on the line for our communities.”

Broward County Property Appraiser Marty Kiar, a former state Representative who helped craft the legislation, said that he believes that the law is true to the intention of the constitutional amendment that voters overwhelmingly passed in 2016 that expanded property tax exemption to those first responders permanently disabled in the line of duty.

“If you are a state first responder or a federal first responder, and you were living here in Florida and homesteaded at the time of your injury, you both deserve the same benefits,” Kiar said.

The gap in the benefits between the two levels of first responders became apparent in 2021, Kiar said. That’s when David Lee Huber fired on federal agents as they tried to serve a search warrant in a child porn case. Three agents were injured, and two others — a male and a female — were killed.

Kiar extended the break to these agents’ survivors and found out that the law did not automatically allow them to receive the property tax exemption benefit because the deceased spouses worked for the federal government. These two families ultimately were able to receive the exemption because of a special circumstance in this case, but he and Woodson would like to see the benefit applied across the board to these federal first responders, Kiar said. 

He said he doesn’t believe it will require voters to approve another amendment to the state constitution since Woodson’s bill is modest in scope and, thankfully, would cover a limited number of properties.

A companion bill has not yet been filed.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].

One comment

  • Joe Corsin

    January 9, 2023 at 10:22 pm

    The state is so nasty that your best bet is to blow them and yourself away if you fked up good enough. Best country in the world.🤡

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