Newly-filed legislation from Democratic Rep. Michael Grieco (HB 6007) aims to stop three Confederate holidays from being recognized by the state.
Florida law designates former Confederate President Jefferson Davis‘s birthday on June 3 as a state-recognized holiday. The same goes for former Confederate General Robert E. Lee‘s birthday on Jan. 19. Confederate Memorial Day, on April 26, is also a state-sanctioned holiday.
The legislation from Grieco, a Miami Beach Democrat, isn’t the first attempt at removing those holidays from the books. Similar bills have been filed in recent years, but the GOP-controlled Legislature has not moved them forward.
State workers don’t earn a paid day off on those three Confederate holidays. Still, many have criticized the fact they are acknowledged under state law.
Earlier this year, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a proclamation commemorating Juneteenth, a day celebrated as the final end of slavery in the United States. DeSantis made the move following nationwide protests seeking social justice reforms.
House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee had pushed the Governor to make the declaration.
“The enslaved people of Galveston were the last to get the news of freedom, two and a half years after President [Abraham] Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was official on January 1, 1863,” McGhee explained. “Therefore, June 19 came to symbolize the freedom of all enslaved people of African heritage in the United States of America and has been celebrated ever since.”
That move, however, brought renewed attention to the Confederate holidays. DeSantis’ Juneteenth proclamation recognized the day, but did not elevate it to a state holiday.
Grieco raised similar concerns in a Friday statement promoting his legislation.
“As we have seen shift in how and who we formally celebrate, it seems only appropriate that Florida participate in the modern shifting views of the Confederacy and what it stood for,” Grieco said.
“By removing these ‘holidays’ from state law we are sending the same message sent by Mississippi voters when they changed their state flag last month.”
Following those nationwide protests earlier this year, Mississippi moved forward with a months-long process to remove the Confederate battle flag from its official state flag design. In early September an alternate design was approved to be put to voters as a Nov. 3 referendum. Mississippi voters followed through in the General Election, approving the new design as the state’s new flag.
Those backing reform have pushed states to cease commemorating the confederacy, including calls to remove Confederate statutes.
Grieco’s bill would simply amend state law to remove three sections listing those Confederate holidays. If successful, the legislation would take effect on July 1, 2021.