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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Further changes to Florida Senate seal awaiting final approval



After removing the Confederate battle flag from the Florida Senate's emblem last fall, senators are expected to vote again this week to make further changes to the chamber's seal.

The additional revisions were expected, because some senators wanted an overhaul of the seal in its entirety rather than simply swapping out the Confederate battle flag for the state flag in a design that the Florida Senate had had for 40 years.

That design includes a banner of five flags in all -- the four others being: the United States flag, the 1513 Spanish flag, the 1564 French flag and the 1763 Great Britain flag.

The new design that the Senate Rules Committee endorsed last week would remove the foreign flags and leave only the state and U.S. flags. A mock-up of that concept is not yet available.

Rules Committee Chairman Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, cited historical accuracy as the reasoning behind the additional proposed changes.

It was the same explanation he gave for supporting the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the seal -- although the impetus of that request by Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner, of Tampa, was the racially motivated church shooting in Charleston, S.C. last summer and the Confederate icon's use in that and other instances dating back to the civil-rights era as a symbol of racism and intimidation.

Speaking of the foreign flags on the seal, "only one of those -– the Union Jack -- was an official national flag at the time Florida was occupied by foreign powers," Simmons said last week. "The other flags on the seal are arguably speculative. ... Given the Senate’s legendary intolerance for historical error, we’re correcting this."

The proposed additional change garnered unanimous, bipartisan support from the Rules Committee.

"Going in this direction certainly shows that as a body we are willing to continue to discuss what gives angst to one senator or another and we can reach an amenable compromise," said Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville. "Because, truly, the seal is the seal of the Senate and should represent every senator’s wishes."

Simmons said Friday he'll bring the proposed rule change to the full Senate when it convenes for session on Thursday afternoon. It's expected to pass and needs approval from a two-thirds majority, or support from 27 of 40 members.

Senate staff temporarily replaced the seal behind the chamber's rostrum for the 2016 session with one that removes the Confederate battle flag. That emblem and all other appearances of it throughout the Capitol are expected to be replaced over the summer to reflect this latest, more-permanent design.

[Last modified: Monday, January 18, 2016 12:39pm]


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