Lantana Democratic Rep. Lori Berman sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott Thursday asking him to call a special session to replace Florida’s statue of a Confederate General at the National Statuary Hall in Washington.
Each state gets two slots to fill in the statuary hall and Florida’s current picks are Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola, who invented the ice machine, and Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith.
“With the recent acts of domestic terrorism by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, it is more imperative than ever that we complete the process we started in 2016 to replace this statue,” Berman said. “There is no place for racism or bigotry in our civil society and Florida certainly should not be represented in our nation’s Capitol by General Smith. Let’s finish the job and get this done immediately.”
Berman suggested Scott set the special session during one of the upcoming interim committee weeks, when lawmakers will already be in Tallahassee to discuss legislation ahead of the 2018 Legislative Session, which starts in January.
The South Florida Democrat told Scott that “by expediting this vote, we will be sending a message to all Americans that Florida will not tolerate hate.”
Lawmakers had mixed results in their 2016 and 2017 efforts to change out the statue. In 2016, the Legislature passed a bill to get the process started by creating a panel to nominate possible replacements.
Their picks were black educator and Bethune-Cookman University founder Mary McLeod Bethune, Publix founder and philanthropist George Jenkins, and “The Everglades: River of Grass” author Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
Despite the recommendations, lawmakers couldn’t come to an agreement during the 2017 Legislative Session.
A bill to send Bethune to D.C. cleared the Senate, but failed in the House, while the Douglas bill was blocked by Orlando Republican Rep. Scott Plakon said he would prefer to send Walt Disney, who although impactful on Florida history never lived in the state.
Smith, who was born in St. Augustine, has represented Florida in the statuary hall since 1922. In addition to the statue, a Jacksonville middle school and the Alachua County School Board administration building are named after him. He is also the subject of numerous private monuments throughout the South.