State lawmaker files bill to ax Florida's three Confederate holidays

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A South Florida lawmaker has filed a bill, again, to do away with the three legal state holidays that honor the Confederacy.

Sen. Lauren Book, a Democrat from Broward County, has filed proposed legislation for the third time in five years to remove the days from the state’s list of official holidays, WFLA-Ch. 8 in Tampa Bay reported.

The three days, which are not paid holidays, are:

  • Jan. 19, which marks Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s birthday

  • April 26, or Confederate Memorial Day

  • June 3, which is the birthday of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy

Book first tried to bring a version of the legislation forward in 2017, after the white supremacist Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which led to the deaths of Heather Heyer, a counterprotester, and two state troopers who died in a helicopter crash.

Book then tried to bring forth the same legislation in 2021, shortly after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which resulted in five deaths. Some of the insurrectionists were seeing waving Confederate flags.

“As a State, we must underscore diversity and undercut tributes to Confederacy, which upheld the institution of slavery,” Book said in 2021, according to FloridaPolitics.com.

Both attempts to get the legislation passed in Tallahassee failed. And the Republican-dominated Legislature is again bristling at the proposal, an indication that the effort could be doomed again.

“I always have a bit of pain in my heart when I realize people don’t want to respect each others history,” said State Senator Dennis Baxley, a Republican from Ocala, according to WFLA-Ch. 8. “The good, the bad, and the ugly.”

According to Book, Florida is one of just five states that continue to recognize Confederate Memorial Day.

Other lawmakers are angry that Juneteenth, which marks the end of slavery, hasn’t been added to the list of state-sanctioned holidays.

“So to elevate three Confederate holidays above Juneteenth feels like a denigration of the contribution of black Americans,” State Representative Fentrice Driskell, a Democrat from Hillsborough County, said in 2020, WFLA reported.