Democrats renew call for special session on statue
Adding to debates across the South about taking down Confederate monuments, all 11 Democrats who represent Florida in Congress issued another call Wednesday for the Florida Legislature to hold a oneday special session to replace a statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith that represents Florida in the National Statuary Hall in Washington D.C.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, had previously called for the Legislature to conduct a special session on the issue when it’s already in Tallahassee for pre-session committee weeks, which begin in mid-September.
But the new request comes in letters to Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, signed by all 11 Democrats who represent Florida in Congress, South Floridians Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Alcee Hastings of Delray Beach, Frederica Wilson of Miami, and Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach.
“We must denounce symbols of white supremacy and stand up for love and compassion — not just with our words, but with our deeds,” the letter reads. “No family visiting our nation’s Capitol should have to explain to their child that the statue representing our state honors someone who fought for a philosophy built on hatred, inequality and oppression.”
Each state gets two statues in the hall, and Florida’s include Smith and air-conditioning pioneer John Gorrie.
The Legislature already voted to remove the statue in 2016, but could not agree on a replacement in this year’s legislative session.
The Florida Senate passed a resolution to replace Smith with a statue of Mary McLeod Bethune, the African-American educator who founded what eventually became Bethune-Cookman University. The House tried to move a bill replacing Smith with a statue of Everglades conservationist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, but the bill failed to pass.
A special session can be called by the governor or by the leaders of both chambers of the Legislature. But after Wasserman Schultz’s initial request on Aug. 15, both Scott and Corcoran said they will not call a special session for the statue’s removal, but will instead leave it to the 2018 legislative session, which begins in January.
Bills have already been filed in both houses to replace the Confederate general statue with a statue of Bethune, the daughter of freed slaves.
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