New legislation would punish lawmakers who vote to take down Confederate monuments

State Rep. Dean Black has filed legislation that would punish lawmakers who vote to remove Confederate monuments.

If Black’s bill (HB 395) is passed next year by the Florida Legislature, it would have a big impact on what’s happening in Jacksonville with Confederate monuments.

Three years ago, Jacksonville removed a Confederate monument that stood in front of City Hall in the middle of the night, without warning.

Black said he filed the legislation to stop incidents like that from happening. The bill would allow lawmakers, like city council members or the mayor, to be fined if they vote to remove monuments or direct or permit a monument to be removed or destroyed.

It would also allow for the governor to remove them from office.

READ: Text of House Bill 395 (Protection of Historical Monuments and Memorials)

Black said if his bill becomes law, and monuments are removed, there would be strong repercussions.

“I want to see them not taken down. The bill has enforcement mechanisms in place to make sure that upon passage, that doesn’t happen anymore,” Black said. “And it’s emphatic, it says that if an elected official votes or permits to allow a historical memorial to be damaged, destroyed or removed, then they can be removed from office.”

Mayor Donna Deegan released this statement responding to the proposed legislation, “This bill would be just another slap in the face to our Black community which has already endured so much. It’s an overreach and unconstitutional.”

The word “Confederate” is not in the bill. Instead, it reads, “historical monuments and memorials.” So, the Andrew Jackson statue in downtown Jacksonville would also fall under the law if it were removed.

The fine would be 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.

“And I want all history preserved so that we can learn from it. And if you want to tell a story, that contextualize is what happened in the past. If you want to put up another memorial to tell your side of the story, then you should be free to do that. And that should be protected. Don’t tear down my history. Tell yours,” Black said.

State Rep. Angie Nixon, D-Jacksonville, pushed back against the bill.

“Now he wants to keep them up. And then not only that he wants to go further and do what the Republican legislature continually does in our state, which is overreach, and remove duly elected individuals who the people elected to represent them,” Nixon said. “Why are we doing this?”

Wells Todd from Take Em Down Jax also weighed in, “Yeah, I think it’s ridiculous. I believe it’s unconstitutional. We have somebody looking into right now. I think what Dean Black is doing, and other legislators are doing is feeding to their base, and their base here in Jacksonville.”

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