State lawmaker says monuments not part of City Council responsibilities.
Republican State Rep. Jay Fant is taking on local and state officials who want to remove or relocate war memorials, especially those dedicated to the Confederacy.
Fant, who represents West Jacksonville, said Wednesday his house bill, HB 1349, is partly in response to a recommendation from Jacksonville City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche to inventory and possibly relocate Confederate monuments from public property.
“I feel like those actions don’t have anything to do with council’s responsibilities, which include passing a balanced budget for the city of Jacksonville,” Fant said.
Brosche announced she wanted to take a closer look at the issue in August after protests in Charlottesville, West Virginia, erupted in violence, resulting in one death.
Fant described Brosche’s announcement and others like it across Florida as “waging war” on the state’s military history and veterans who served in the Civil War.
“Around that same time, there have been efforts from some of the liberal legislators through state law to do the same, and I’ve been watching those dynamics closely,” he said.
Fant’s bill, which is referred to as the “Soldiers and Heroes’ Monuments and Memorials Protection Act,” recategorizes the term “veterans” to include any Floridian who served in a military conflict since the Anglo-Spanish War of 1595.
It defines the term “remembrance” to include any exhibit, artwork, statue, monument, memorial, nameplate, historical marker, symbol — religious or other, tombstone, plaque, seal, logo, road name, building name, flag, landscaping, feature fountain or similar objects that commemorate a soldier, military figure, organization, armed conflict, law enforcement officer, prison guard, firefighter or astronaut.
His bill prohibits the removal of any “remembrance” dedicated on or after March 22, 1822 — the date Florida became a U.S. territory.
“If they are relocated, they must be replaced,” Fant said. “These monuments that have been commemorated have to be protected. Period.”
Six months after Brosche, a Republican, made her intentions known, no bill has been introduced. Still, Jacksonville residents on both sides of the issue have continued to offer public comment at council meetings.
Fant said he’s heard the concerns of the “left-wing critics” of Confederate-era monuments, and that he doesn’t see a reason to remove them.
“I’d remind them that this country spent decades healing from that war,” Fant said. “Those healings have taken place and dividing our communities over this issue is senseless.”
Fant’s bill was read for the first time in the House on Tuesday and will need the approval of Speaker Richard Corcoran to advance.
In September, the Confederate monument in Hemming Park was vandalized with red spray paint, something Fant said a possible companion bill in the Senate would tackle.
“That, of course, would address that type of egregious conduct,” he said.