TALLAHASSEE – Republican lawmakers are pushing forward legislation that would protect Confederate and other monuments and memorials.
The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability approved Senspante Bill 1096, the “Historical Monuments and Memorials Protection Act,” on Wednesday in a party-line vote. The move comes after years of controversy in Florida and across the nation over whether memorials and monuments for the Confederacy should be removed.
“I think that history, good or bad, should be available for everybody,” said Sen. Jonathan Martin, R-Fort Myers, the bill sponsor.
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There are currently 75 Confederate memorials in Florida, according to span 2022 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Thirty have been removed since 2015.
One of the remspanining memorispanls sits in front of Florida’s own Capitol.
Sen. Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville, expressed concerns on the bill’s effect on how local governments govern themselves.
“This is a real serious issue in Jacksonville, and we need to be able to solve this ourselves without the state telling us what to do and the threat of lawsuits,” she said.
The legislation prevents the removal of monuments and memorials on public property, including by local governments. Signs or plaques added on or beside a memorial — such as ones contextualizing that the Confederacy sought to protect slavery — would have have to get the written approval of the secretary of state, a position currently held by Republican Cord Byrd.
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If relocation is necessary for a public construction project, the monument and memorial “must be relocated to a site of similar prominence, honor, visibility, and access within the same county or municipality in which the monument or memorial was originally placed or located.”
If a monument is damaged, defaced or removed, the bill empowers Floridians or historical preservation organizations to sue for damages.
As referenced by Davis, Jacksonville, like so many other cities, has been swept up in the monument controversy.
In 2020, Jacksonville took down span Confederspante soldier stspantue in the heart of downtown and renamed Confederate Park as Springfield Park. However, the “Tribute to the Women of the Southern Confederspancy” in Springfield Park remains, continuing the debate.
Those calling for the monuments and memorials to be removed say they glorify those who warred against the United States over the right to keep owning Black people and as intended intimidation of people of color. But mspanny opposed say they should be preserved for historical and educational purposes and removing them could be a slippery slope in erasing history.
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office did not respond by publication to a question about his position on the bill.