Florida Senate seal could be changing — again

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The Florida Senate’s bronze seal, which usually hangs behind the Senate President’s lectern, was removed this week not only to replace the seal’s depiction of the Confederate flag but also in anticipation of still more design changes, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

In October, the Senate decided to remove a Confederate flag from the chamber’s official seal and replace it with the state flag. That includes all representations of the seal, including on letterhead and lapel pins, for instance.

The previous seal, adopted in 1972, featured five national flags that have flown over the state: Spanish, Confederate, U.S., British, French.

Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner moved for the change shortly after last year’s South Carolina shooting of nine black churchgoers in Charleston. The gunman had photographed himself holding the Confederate flag and made clear he was motivated by racism.

This week, the large seal on the wall of the Senate chamber that had the old design was finally gone. Spokeswoman Katie Betta said a temporary seal with the state flag in it will go up by the start of the 2016 Legislative Session next Tuesday.

That temporary seal, made of vinyl, metal and wood, was approved by Senate President Andy Gardiner, she added. Total cost: About $350.

But Betta added that simply swapping out the Confederate for the state flag may not be the only change to the seal, referring to debate on the floor before the October decision.

Senate Rules Chair David Simmons, an Altamonte Springs Republican, explained the change by referring to U.S. Supreme Court decisions that only flags of “legitimate sovereignties” should be recognized. The Confederate States of America were never legitimate, he said.

But state Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, said that “abhorrent” events took place under all the flags on the seal.

“This is a very emotional, controversial issue and I understand that,” he said. “I think symbols are important and I’d like to have a discussion about what the seal is going to look like … The idea of having another seal altogether is at least worthy of discussion.”

Afterward, Bradley could be seen huddling on the floor with Simmons and Sens. Rene GarciaDorothy HukillAaron BeanKelli Stargel and Travis Hutson. The Senate later approved the flag change that same day.

Bradley could not be immediately reached by phone Tuesday afternoon.

Betta also said no further plans had been made regarding the mural that greets visitors to the Senate’s public gallery on the Capitol’s fifth floor.

Last year, Betta told FloridaPolitics.com the mural would be removed because it’s showing signs of age, including fading and peeling.

But the 10-foot-by-16 foot “Five Flags Mural,” installed when the present Capitol was opened in 1978, also happens to depict a Confederate flag.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.