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Tax breaks pitched for disaster victims

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Residents whose homes are uninhabitable after natural disasters --- including last year's hurricanes --- could receive property-tax breaks, under bills filed by two Republican lawmakers.

Sen. Travis Hutson, an Elkton Republican whose Northeast Florida district suffered significant damage during Hurricane Matthew, filed the Senate version of the bill (SB 272) on Friday.

Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, filed a similar measure (HB 49) in November.

The bills would establish guidelines for property appraisers to reduce the assessed values of homes that are uninhabitable after natural disasters.

The bills would apply retroactively to Jan. 1, 2016, which could lead to tax breaks for people whose homes were damaged last year in Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Hermine.

Such people would have until March 1, 2018, to apply for the tax relief, according to the bills.

Hurricane Hermine made landfall in early September south of Tallahassee and caused damage in other parts of North Florida.

The more-powerful Hurricane Matthew did not make direct landfall in Florida but caused damage in October as it barreled off the state's East Coast.