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Florida bill to block monument removals is making lawmakers squeamish. Here's why

Alyssa Johnson, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

A proposal that would prevent the removal of historic state monuments, like Confederate statues, has been making its way through the Florida House and Senate.

Senate Bill 1122 would punish local governments that try to take down historic monuments located on public property and would give someone the right to sue if one is removed. A similar bill, House Bill 395, is moving through Tallahassee as well.

On Tuesday, the Senate Community Affairs Committee voted favorably on SB 1122, but not without contention.

Many of those who spoke in opposition of the legislation at Tuesday’s meeting viewed the bill as a tactic to prevent the removal of Confederate monuments and also opposed the fact that the bill would take power away from local governments.

Those who spoke in favor of the bill said they viewed it as a way to protect history — one commentator specifically said he was in favor of the bill as he saw it as a way to protect “white society.”

Here’s what to know about the legislation and what’s to come.

 

What’s in the Senate Bill?

SB 1122, the “Historical Monuments and Memorials Protection Act,” would prohibit any local government from removing a “historic Florida monument or memorial,” and it would be retroactive to July 1, 2018.

The bill defines any “permanent statue, marker, plaque, flag, banner, cenotaph, religious symbol, painting, seal, tombstone, or display” that’s been on public property for at least 25 years and depicts an event or person apart of state history as a “historic Florida monument or memorial.”

The legislation effectively gives only the state the right to make decisions about the removal of historic monuments. It states that the Division of Historical Resources within the Department of State and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs will oversee these decisions.

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