May 18, 2021

Celebrating 50 Years

Florida's Turning Points Since 1958

Pivotal events over the past 50 years that have helped to shape Florida today.

1986: Fort Lauderdale officials vote to build a wall along A1A and take other steps to discourage students from thronging the city during spring break.

Florida Lottery sign

1986: Florida voters authorize the Florida Lottery, earmarking its revenues for education.

1987: Gov. Bob Martinez proposes a tax on services that the Legislature passes then repeals at Martinez’s request.

1987: The Legislature creates the Florida Prepaid College Plan. In 1997, lawmakers create the Bright Futures program. The two programs have afforded many students a college education, but critics say the programs have held back the quality of the overall university system.

19901990: The National Science Foundation picks FSU over MIT for a $100-million national magnet laboratory.


1990: Walt Disney World hosts its first “Gay Days’’ celebration, bringing gay marketing into Florida’s tourism mainstream. Today the state’s public-private tourism marketer, Visit Florida, openly courts gay visitors.

1990: The Legislature passes the Growth Management Act, which requires counties and municipalities to draw up comprehensive plans for their growth. The law introduces the idea of requiring “concurrent” facilities — in transportation, schools, and later drinking water — into the growth management process.

1990: Sawgrass Mills opens in Broward County and becomes a shopping mecca that ultimately draws nearly as many visitors annually as Disney World.

1991: Florida icon Publix Super Markets expands into Atlanta, beginning growth that would take it into South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee. Based on 2006 revenue, Publix is the 15th-largest retailer in the United States.

1991: An era of Florida-based airlines ends with the demise of Pan American World Airways and Eastern. Earlier, Braniff (1982) and National (1980) failed or were acquired by another carrier.

1992: Voters enact the Save Our Homes amendment, limiting increases in the assessed value of homestead property to 3%. The measure shifts the tax burden from established homeowners to business owners and recent buyers of homes.

Gov. Jeb Bush
Gov. Jeb Bush
1992: The year punctuates the rising fortunes of the Republican Party. Ander Crenshaw becomes the first Republican Senate president since Reconstruction. After the Legislature reapportions, Republicans win the majority in the Senate in the 1994 elections. Two years later, they gain a majority in the House for the first time since 1874. Toni Jennings later becomes the first Republican woman Senate president, and Daniel Webster becomes the first Republican Speaker since Reconstruction; for the second straight cycle, no incumbent Republican legislator loses re-election. In 1998, Jeb Bush is elected governor, and for the first time ever, Florida has a Republican Legislature, Cabinet and executive branch. In 2002, Bush becomes the state’s first Republican governor to win a second term.

Hurricane Andrew
Hurricane Andrew

1992: Hurricane Andrew strikes south Florida. Massive storm losses cripple the private insurance industry in the state, leading to the creation and expansion of state-backed insurance pools that evolve into Citizens Property Insurance Corp. in 2002. The storm also results in an overhaul of the state’s building codes.

1994: IBM, which developed the first personal computer at a research facility in Boca Raton, closes its operations there, but IBM veterans go on to found Citrix and a number of other high-tech companies in the region.

1997: Former Disney executive Peter S. Rummell is named chairman and CEO of St. Joe Co., the old-line Florida company founded by Alfred I. DuPont and later run by businessman and power broker Ed Ball. Rummell accelerates the company’s evolution from forestry and sugar to real estate development, seeking to capitalize on the company’s massive, 700,000-acre land holdings in northwest Florida.

1997: Florida Gulf Coast University opens in Fort Myers.

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