Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to expand the definition of the “Capitol Complex” to allow his administration to place monuments already approved by the Legislature in prior years in places outside the immediate Capitol building area.
As part of his proposed budget released last week, DeSantis included a conforming bill to allow the term “Capitol Complex” to include the Holland Building across Monroe Street facing the Old Capitol building and the R.A. Gray Building that houses the Florida Department of State one block from the Capitol and nearby roads.
Those changes will allow the placement of new monuments by those buildings. Lawmakers have approved three monuments honoring the victims of slavery, victims of the Holocaust and victims of the Dozier School for Boys, a reform prison for juvenile boys in Marianna that ran from 1900 to 2011, where residents of the camp were viciously beaten and abused, which often led to death. State researchers later discovered 55 burials and more than 100 deaths tied to the school.
Chris Spencer, DeSantis’ Director of Policy and Budget, presented the budget plan to lawmakers Tuesday and explained the need to expand to find spots for the new memorials.
“Frankly we’re running out of space here on the block that we’ve got here at the Capitol,” Spencer told members of the House Appropriations Committee.
The monuments are supposed to be placed on the Capitol Complex, but the area is already chock full of monuments. Statues and monuments honoring fallen police officers and another honoring fallen firefighters can be found in the Capitol courtyard between the current Capitol and the Old Capitol building. A memorial dedicated to remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sits near the law enforcement memorial and a Veterans Walk of Honor is in the middle of the courtyard.
A replica of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia can be seen next to the House office building adjacent to the courtyard and north of the Old Capitol building, and nearby is a memorial for recipients of the Purple Heart, awarded to military members wounded in combat.
On the front lawn of the Old Capitol there is a monument to Confederate soldiers from Leon County and another obelisk honoring.
Compounding the spacing issues in finding a spot for new monuments, construction to refurbish the western side of the Capitol building remains ongoing.