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Panel OKs erasing Confederate flag from Senate seal

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The Florida Senate’s Rules Committee on Thursday unanimously recommended removing a Confederate flag from the chamber’s official seal and replacing it with the state flag.

Senators on the panel voted for the move 9-0.

The matter now goes before the full Senate, which could consider it at the beginning of the 2016 Legislative Session in January. The change will require a two-thirds vote of the chamber.

As reported earlier, the Senate is reviewing its seal after a renewed debate about Confederate symbols, including the battle flag ubiquitous in the South.

The gunman who killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., in June, had photographed himself holding the flag and made clear he was motivated by racism.

Legislators there later voted to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.

Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner, who moved for the change, said she first asked Senate President Andy Gardiner to consider revising the seal shortly after the South Carolina shooting.

Joyner, of Tampa, also said she did not immediately know how much the move would cost. Letterhead, business cards, lapel pins and a bevy of other items will have to be replaced.

“Change is expensive sometimes,” she said.

But Joyner said the flag represented a too-sad part of the state’s and American history.

“For a lot of folks, this is reminiscent of a lot of pain,” she said.

Rules chair David Simmons, an Altamonte Springs Republican, earlier had cited U.S. Supreme Court decisions defending the change, saying only flags of “legitimate sovereignties” should be recognized.

State Sen. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat, addressed concerns that the change would amount to historical revisionism.

“We can’t revise history … but we can choose what we highlight in our seal,” he said.

 

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.

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