New legislation would let Gov. DeSantis remove local officials who take down Confederate monuments
A protest banner rubs Lenny Curry the wrong way.

jaguars confederate
Violators of the law would be 'subject to removal from office by the Governor.'

Legislation filed in the House would protect monuments honoring soldiers, including those who fought for the Confederate States of America against the federal government, and would give the state a wide variety of enforcement powers against local officials who subverted the legislative will.

HB 395, filed by Rep. Dean Black of Jacksonville, proposes state “protection of historical monuments and memorials” and authorizes “all actions to protect and preserve all historical monuments and memorials from removal, damage, or destruction.”

Black filed the legislation in 2023, but he notes there are “lots of changes” and that the new product is a “much better bill” than the previous iteration.

Indeed, the legislation has teeth that the previous product did not, giving the executive branch powers that include removing noncompliant officials.

The bill would punish local lawmakers and officials who voted to remove such memorials, authorizing a fine of the costs of replacing or repairing the memorial out of their personal wealth for removal actions. It would also give Ron DeSantis the power to remove elected leaders from local office from the time the bill takes effect.

“An elected official acting in his or her official capacity who knowingly and willfully violates this section is subject to removal from office by the Governor,” the bill reads.

The bill explicitly stipulates that “any official, agent, or member of a local government who directs, permits, facilitates, or votes to remove or destroy a monument or memorial is subject to a civil penalty of up to $5,000, or the actual cost of the removal and replacement of the monument or memorial, including repairs that may be necessitated due to the relocation and replacement, whichever is greater. Such penalty shall be paid from the official’s, agent’s, or member’s personal funds without any reimbursement from any other entity.”

This suggests that the burden of repayment would fall on local officials, rather than the taxpayer, should they take the risk of flouting state law.

The state would preempt local authority over monument removal unless it’s part of a construction project, in which case moving the structure would be allowed for up to a year.

After that, the edifice “shall be placed back at the original location or, if that is not possible, as close as possible to the original location in a prominent place for easy and accessible public viewing as determined by the Florida Historical Commission or, for a military monument or memorial, as determined by the executive director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.”

The bill bans “a historical monument or memorial” from being “removed, damaged, or destroyed.”

“Accurate history belongs to all Floridians in perpetuity,” Black’s legislation reads. But it does permit a “contextual plaque or marker … near the monument or memorial if the Secretary of State or the executive director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, as appropriate, and the State Historic Preservation Officer, after consulting with the Florida Historical Commission, decide that such marker provides a more accurate understanding of the monument or memorial.”

The bill language makes the state preemption explicit against “any local elected officials who may be swayed by undue influence by groups who may feel offended or hurt by certain actions in the history of the state or the nation.” It is unclear what “undue influence” means in this context.

The bill also contemplates retroactive penalties for “removed, damaged, or destroyed … monuments or memorials” after 2016, including fines for responsible parties that are three times the cost of replacing the monument, and “punitive damages” that are unspecified. The legislation gives standing to all manner of interested parties, including a “person regularly using the monument or memorial for remembrance.”

The state could also claw back removal funds, by withholding cultural funding provided by the Department of State until that financial obligation is satisfied, to pay for the replacement of the monument.

Finally, the legislation would ensure that a statue of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith, formerly in the National Statuary Hall, would be displayed, at state expense, no later than July 2025.

In 2023, Sen. Jonathan Martin carried a version of the bill, and he’s on board for the current legislation. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill died in committee, amid heated discussion about issues like whether the bill was a Trojan horse for the “Lost Cause” of confederate enthusiasm.

Black’s legislation would bring a state resolution to a long-simmering controversy in Jacksonville, where one major monument in what is now James Weldon Johnson Park has already been removed by former Republican Mayor Lenny Curry, while a tribute to the women of the confederacy in Springfield Park remains despite the former Mayor’s best efforts.

Current Democratic Mayor Donna Deegan has lobbied the City Council to allocate funds for the removal of the remaining statue, which would be moved off of public lands and left somewhere private for monument enthusiasts to visit it. Thus far, the supermajority Republican Council has resisted those executive branch efforts. State legislation would obviously make such efforts moot.

Deegan denounced the legislative proposal Thursday afternoon.

“This bill would be just another slap in the face to our Black community, which has already endured so much. It’s also an unconstitutional overreach that is the latest example of home rule being stripped away from Florida cities,” she said.

Meanwhile, a September poll from the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab shows half the city wants all memorials to the losing side in the Civil War gone. When asked about the city removing all Confederate monuments from public spaces, 50% of respondents said they back removal, 42% saying they oppose removal, and 8% wouldn’t say either way.

The split is along party lines, with 77% of Democrats in support and 73% of Republicans opposed to removal.

We have reached out to Mayor Deegan’s office to get their take on this legislation, and will add that once received.

Meanwhile, Gov. DeSantis’ office is not weighing in on the legislation just yet.

“Since this legislation is still subject to the legislative process (and therefore different iterations), the governor will decide on the merits of the bill in final form if and when it passes and is delivered to the governor’s office,” asserted Press Secretary Jeremy Redfern, who used language he’s used previously when asked about bills that haven’t passed yet.

Still, remarks DeSantis has made on the campaign trail suggest that he is taking a newly sympathetic look at preserving Confederate history, including reversal of one base renaming despite the ignominious military history of its former namesake.

In June, the Florida Governor said that the newly rechristened Fort Liberty in North Carolina should have its name changed back to honor Braxton Bragg, whose legacy as a rebel commander was undistinguished even by the markers of the rebel army.

“Here’s what I said with respect to Fort Bragg is, that’s an iconic base in this country. I didn’t even know it was a Civil War general,” said DeSantis, who graduated from Yale in 2001 with a B.A., magna cum laude in history.

“I don’t think most people knew it was a Civil War general. You just know you’ve been to Bragg, right? And they’re changing it for political correctness reasons. And so I don’t believe in doing it for political correctness reasons and that’s just kind of how we’re going to roll on it. And here’s the thing, you know, you learn from history, you don’t erase the history.”

Fort Bragg was renamed “Fort Liberty” earlier this year, on the recommendation of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Commission on the Naming of Items. The goal was to change the names of facilities “that commemorate the Confederate States of America or any person who served voluntarily with the Confederate States of America.”

Despite the limited scope of the DOD’s renaming, the Governor likened taking Bragg’s name off the fort to efforts to “take Abraham Lincoln off the statue down in Boston … take Teddy Roosevelt down in New York City” and “remove George Washington’s name from schools in San Francisco.”

“And that’s not, I think, what I want to see. I mean, I think you can look back at anybody and you could find flaws. But at the end of the day, you know, we had people that have done great things for this country,” DeSantis said.

“I’m not in a position to say that somehow I’m so much better than any of this. It’s a different time. People make mistakes. There’s different parts of our society, we look back and can say was a mistake. But this idea that we’re going to erase history, I just think, is fundamentally wrong, and we’re not going to do that.”

The installation’s former name honors Gen. Bragg, a North Carolinian, who was known for owning slaves and losing key Civil War battles that contributed to the Confederacy’s downfall.

A native of Warrenton, North Carolina, Bragg was in his position until 1863, when after a defeat at Chattanooga, he was removed from that lead role at his request and became a military advisor for Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Despite his relegation, he would go on to be the on-the-scene commander during Confederate defeats throughout the war, including a failed attempt to protect the port in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Rather than lead protection of the port, Bragg stayed behind at the fort away from the fray, to the consternation of the fort’s commander.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has been the Northeast Florida correspondent for Florida Politics since 2014. He writes for the New York Post and National Review also, with previous work in the American Conservative and Washington Times and a 15+ year run as a columnist in Folio Weekly. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • James L. Wilson

    November 9, 2023 at 2:27 pm

    Amazing. Anyone who doubts that the current GOP is pro-Confederate, pro Jim Crow, pro segregation, needs only to look to what DeSantis and his minions in the Legislature propose. No doubt, they will require that every Florida school be named for Braxton Bragg, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet or another traitor to the country. Nix that. James Longstreet became a Republican after the war and encouraged Black people to vote. He is anathema to this GOP.

  • Tom

    November 9, 2023 at 2:36 pm

    He’s definitely playing to the redneck agenda. The desperation is really starting to show. Imagine, if you will, that he actually did something for the good of the majority of people in the state that elected him to govern? Never happen but what the hell.

  • Ron DeSantis is a Racist

    November 9, 2023 at 2:40 pm

    Not surprising at all. Ron DeSantis IS a racist POS after all.

  • ScienceBLVR

    November 9, 2023 at 2:56 pm

    Hmmmm seems like Rep Black put a lot of time into this bill, and it sooooo helps with the many issues we have in Florida today. Is the plan to use fines to help with affordable housing, property insurance, education shortfalls? But, my favorite quote below, does that apply to all history? Even the benefits of slavery, you know accurate information about the losing Confederate traitors?
    “Accurate history belongs to all Floridians in perpetuity,” Black’s legislation reads.”

  • Michael K

    November 9, 2023 at 3:06 pm

    Any doubts that DeSantis is the face of the new confederacy?

    • Michael Burger

      November 10, 2023 at 12:36 pm

      Nope, sadly none at all.

  • PeterH

    November 9, 2023 at 4:04 pm

    Let’s protect the trophies that remind Americans and America’s visitors of the traitors to the Union whose divisive war killed more Americans than any prior or future American combat engagement! The Civil War resulted in 600,000 deaths or 2% of the population!

  • Pastor Pasta

    November 9, 2023 at 4:10 pm

    The GOP loves traitors.

  • TJC

    November 9, 2023 at 4:21 pm

    DeSantis: “And here’s the thing, you know, you learn from history, you don’t erase the history.”
    Unless it’s Black History, in which case it gets erased.

  • TJC

    November 9, 2023 at 4:36 pm

    After the Civil War, the Confederacy’s greatest hero, Robert E. Lee, was adamant in his opposition to Confederate monuments. He said it was time to let the wounds of war heal, not fester. He was opposed because he believed it would be best for the newly united country.
    If DeSantis is really interested in learning from history, let him read Lee’s words on the issue and explain why he thinks Lee was wrong and why he, DeSantis, is a better judge of what is best for our country.
    And keep in mind, Lee was a battle hardened combat General, not a military lawyer.

  • Bwj

    November 9, 2023 at 4:39 pm

    DeSantis has a degree in History and didn’t know who Gen. Braxton Bragg was? Oh, please.

    • Mark Anderson

      November 10, 2023 at 10:41 am

      That’s why he wants a Hillsdale education. The shortstop who believes he’s centerfielder needs to change shoes.

  • JD

    November 9, 2023 at 4:54 pm

    I doubt this will pass unless there is some culture war checkbox left unchecked.

    Is there at this point?

    Maybe they need some pancake syrup to bitch about too.

    You want an old trope, the confederate history being erased and replaced is one – nobody’s forgot the Nazis being horrible have they? Oh wait…

  • Bill Pollard

    November 9, 2023 at 5:06 pm

    It seems some people get college degrees even though they don’t know much. I had to earn both of my degrees at a state university that required much work to be done if one wanted a degree. I’m fairly certain any US college degree in history requires at least two classes in American history.

  • Matt Carlucci

    November 9, 2023 at 5:11 pm


    • MH/Duuuval

      November 10, 2023 at 1:24 pm

      Might be time for the real Matt Carlucci to become a Democrat.

  • Daniel Zim

    November 9, 2023 at 5:14 pm

    Ron DeSantis is a fascist Confederate!

  • WhatNow

    November 9, 2023 at 5:47 pm

    Florida Republican Party is a fascist party, intent on removing local government control over just about anything and everything. Centralized dictate of everything. Absolutely horrendous. Can’t believe that Floridians who claim they are patriotic Americans actually vote for these genuinely dangerous anti-American politicians. When people talk about how American democracy is in danger, Florida GOP is the “poster child” for sure.

  • Seber Newsome III

    November 9, 2023 at 6:42 pm

    Thank you so very much Representative Dean Black and Senator Martine. Finally, men with courage to protect AMERICAN HISTORY. Hopefully the monuments taken down in: Jacksonville, Tampa, Gainesville, Orlando, St. Augustine and Manatee County will be put back up. Deo Vindice

    • MH/Duuuval

      November 10, 2023 at 11:27 pm

      CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that was a focal point of a deadly white nationalist protest in 2017 has been melted down and will be repurposed into new works of art.
      Oct. 27, 2023

    • Silly Wabbit

      November 11, 2023 at 3:01 pm

      You kwazy.

  • Jon Cochran

    November 9, 2023 at 7:01 pm

    This fascist is a threat to democracy, look it up…his actions literally define the term. The cult of personality has taken over, people must purge this nonsense from there thought process… deep down they know this is wrong. There on the wrong team, but it’s too late now..
    They already bought the gear

  • Kathryn A.

    November 9, 2023 at 8:53 pm

    Wow, just wow! I knew we had reverted to the 1930’s with all the fascism, racism and authoritarianism in this state. Now, we’ve moved further back to the mid-1800’s and will be forced to honor the confederacy and all that involved. Whew and people could actually be charged for getting rid of these hateful reminders! Is it only me or do others want to get out this crazy state before it’s too late?

  • !My Take

    November 9, 2023 at 10:04 pm

    Soldiers for Slavery mày have a special place in his heart. Along with his Nazi fans
    But it’s a good thing DeSSgustus wasn’t in charge of all the Saddam and Stàlin statues, or there’d still be hunďreds of them on display.
    Finally, he didn’t mind vandalizing American and African American history books and courses because some òf his redneck base might become uncomfortable by the truth.

  • MH/Duuuval

    November 9, 2023 at 10:07 pm

    The surprising thing is that the MAGA element hasn’t disclosed their possession of an actual Time Machine that allows them to repair flawed laws in the past.

  • woke up right

    November 10, 2023 at 2:59 pm

    Not sure how this is going to help solve the property insurance crisis, help get lots of citizens out of poverty, clean up our degraded waterways or anything else that actually matters.

    • MH/Duuuval

      November 10, 2023 at 11:29 pm

      It’s a diversion so the sharks can continue to steal the nation’s wealth.
      And, like Johnny Reb, you get hominy, a little salt pork, but no coffee.

Comments are closed.


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