Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday signaled he would approve a bill to remove and replace a statue of a Confederate army general as one of Florida’s two entries in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.
The House passed the Senate’s bill (SB 310) by a vote of 83-32 earlier in the day.
The House put aside its version (HB 141) that would have replaced both statues, that of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith and one of scientist-inventor Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola, a pivotal figure in the invention of air conditioning.
Each state has two statues on display in the Capitol.
“I have not seen the specific bill, but from what I have been told I am going to sign it,” Scott said.
The move to take down Smith’s statue comes after renewed debate about Confederate symbols, including the battle flag ubiquitous in the South.
A gunman charged with killing nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, last year had photographed himself holding the flag and made clear he was motivated by racism.
South Carolina legislators later voted to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.
A state replacing a Capitol statue has precedents.
Arizona, for instance, recently replaced John Campbell Greenway – described as a war hero and controversial copper-mining executive from the late 1800s-early 1900s – with U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, a 20th-century conservative icon.
Goldwater also was the 1964 Republican presidential nominee against Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson.
The Great Floridians Program within the Department of State would be responsible for choosing three new Floridians to represent the state in stone at the U.S. Capitol.
From those recommendations, due by Jan. 1, 2017, “the Legislature shall select one prominent Florida citizen to replace the statue of General Edmund Kirby Smith.”