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Florida Bill Would Create Commissions For Opportunity Zones

Green coloring highlights opportunity zones in South Florida.

Every year, Florida's state legislature meets for a single, 60-day session. This year's session began March 5, and among the bills being considered is House Bill 481, which would create development agencies for each opportunity zone in the state. 

The bill — a revival of the Florida Enterprise Act, which applied to enterprise zones — was introduced by Democratic state Rep. Anika Omphroy from western Broward County. It would create opportunity zone development agencies composed of eight to 13 members, who would be appointed by municipalities and not receive compensation.

Those agencies would develop strategic plans for each zone and apply for state incentives, including sales tax credits and a 60% reduction in property tax assessments for improvements made.

The bill has provisions for involving community members and encouraging minority-owned businesses. It also specifies that the opportunity zone development agencies should reflect the racial demographics of the communities in which they are located.

Across the country, including in Fort Lauderdale, critics of the opportunity zone program have worried that it could backfire, giving wealthy people more tax breaks while causing gentrification problems in communities the law is ostensibly supposed to help.

“The federal law has no accountability of what is done with the residents in the community," Ronald Fieldstone, a partner at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, told the Daily Business Review. "The state law, I think, is aimed at this problem.”