‘Vile’ and ‘bigoted’: Local Republican lawmaker raises concerns over monuments bill after comments from supporters

Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo on Wednesday raised questions about the fate of a proposal to protect historic monuments and memorials after several lawmakers voiced outrage over comments Tuesday by supporters of the bill.

Passidomo, R-Naples, said members of the Republican-controlled Senate Community Affairs Committee were still “upset” Wednesday morning because speakers supporting the bill cited a need to protect “white culture” and “white supremacy.”

The comments came as the Community Affairs Committee passed the bill.

MORE: Proposed bill could result in withheld arts and culture funding if historic monuments are removed in FloridaText of House Bill 395 (Protection of Historical Monuments and Memorials)

“There are problems with the bill,” Passidomo said. “More than that, there are problems in perceptions among our caucus, on all sides. So, I’m going to take that into consideration. I’m not going to bring a bill to the floor that is so abhorrent to everybody.”

Democrats on the committee walked out before Tuesday’s vote.

Passidomo said that was because of the public comments, not the bill.

Sen. Jennifer Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican who serves on the committee, called the public comments “vile” and “bigoted” and said they were almost enough to cause her to flip her vote and oppose the bill.

“You are the reason I’m vacillating on whether or not to even vote yes, because it looks like I endorse your hatred,” Bradley told the speakers. “And I do not.”

Senate sponsor Jonathan Martin, R-Fort Myers, argued that his bill and intentions have been mischaracterized as protecting the Confederacy.

Under the proposal, monuments and memorials on public property would be protected and people and groups would have legal standing to file civil lawsuits over their removal or destruction by local officials. The measure also would direct courts to invalidate local ordinances on displacing memorials.

During an appearance last week in Jacksonville, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he was “100 percent against removing monuments.”

MORE: ‘It’s just gone too far’: Gov. DeSantis says he doesn’t support taking down Confederate monuments, renaming Jacksonville

Jacksonville remains a focal point of debate about removing monuments erected to honor the Confederacy, after Mayor Donna Deegan in December ordered the removal of a “Women of the Southland” monument that had stood in Springfield Park since 1915.

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