Confederate battle flag will be removed from Florida Senate seal
In an unscheduled action -- and after some confusion and back-and-forth -- the Florida Senate voted today to remove the Confederate battle flag from its official seal.
The topic was surprisingly broached at the start of the legislature's third special session of the year, the sole topic of which was supposed to be reapportionment of state Senate seats.
The Senate wasn't expected to consider changing the seal until the regular session in January -- although the Senate Rules Committee unanimously endorsed changing the seal earlier this month to a design that replaces the rebel flag with the Florida state flag.
Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, allowed the issue to come forward so that the transition to a new seal could begin as soon as possible, he said.
"It was not our intent to catch people off guard," Gardiner said.
But after Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, raised questions on the Senate floor -- protesting why other alterations to the seal weren't considered -- Gardiner initially postponed the vote.
A half-hour later, after senators had time to huddle together privately on the floor, Gardiner brought the discussion back up again, and the chamber adopted the recommendation from the Rules Committee without any objections. That procedural action doesn't require a recorded vote by each senator.
However, Gardiner said further changes to the seal are likely to be heard by the rules committee, so don't expect an imminent switch.
The redesigned seal approved by the Senate Monday replaces the Confederate battle flag with the state flag in a fan of five flags, which also include those of the United States, Great Britain, France and Spain.
"(We should) look at all the flags on the seal," Bradley argued during the initial discussion on the Senate floor. "There were things that occurred in the name of some of these flags that history has now looked upon as being abhorrent."
Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner, of Tampa, told reporters afterward that she was "astounded that someone would take this opportunity to do it another way."
"Removing all the other flags, in my opinion, is not the answer," she said. "The issue is to remove this painful symbol of oppression and suppression that black people endured during the era of slavery in this country and in this state."
Senate Rules Committee Chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, said, for him, changing the seal is a matter of historical accuracy.
"If we’re going to have a seal, we should be dealing with sovereign nations that are -- in fact -- legitimate, sovereign nations," Simmons said, adding it would be "most appropriate" to include the state flag on the Senate seal.
Shortly after the vote, the Florida Senate tweeted an image of what the new seal looks like: