By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
That’s the key takeaway from Republican State Sen. Jay Collins’ chief of staff’s statement Wednesday declaring that his boss’s proposed legislation to authorize the confederate battle flag to be flown on state and local government buildings in Florida was merely a blunder.
“This amendment draft was filed in error and has already been pulled as we work to ensure the wording of our bill is in line with the state constitution and statute, which is what created this issue in the first place,” wrote spokesman Ted Veerman.
In fact, it was withdrawn Tuesday afternoon about an hour after Florida Bulldog sought to question Collins about it. Collins, who represents parts of Tampa, did not respond to the request for comment.
Veerman likewise did not respond to Florida Bulldog’s further request Wednesday to explain what prompted the senator to tweet out Veerman’s statement, why such an “error” happened, and why Sen. Collins and he waited overnight to issue any statement.
COLLINS NO ‘CONFEDERATE SYMPATHIZER’
Veerman also had this to say in his tweet: “Jay Collins is an American patriot who personally sewed his arm back together on the battlefield in Afghanistan as he was hemorrhaging blood along with losing his leg due to injuries sustained in active combat in defense of the flag of the United States of America.
“Any insinuation that Jay is a confederate sympathizer is disgusting.” (Emphasis in the original).
The Civil War ended in 1865 with the confederacy’s defeat.
Former Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, who led a successful effort to remove the confederate flag from the Florida Senate’s official seal, said, “I don’t believe for a second that it was done in error. How do you erroneously file an amendment? I’ve done plenty of amendments in my 16 years. I’ve never heard of it.”
“This amendment was more than a mistake. It was language that will govern the flags that can or cannot be flown in public buildings in Florida,” Joyner said. “An apology from the senator is what is required here, not a statement from his spokesperson calling it an ‘error.’ This is a major faux pas and is inexcusable for a man who swore to uphold the constitution.”
‘A CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUE’
Senate Bill 668, filed by Collins, seeks to prohibit state and local governments from displaying flags that don’t follow “a certain protocol or comply with specified requirements.” Collins’ amendment, now withdrawn, included a list of dozen flags – including the U.S. flag and Florida’s flag –, that would be authorized to be flown at state, county and local buildings in Florida.
In the middle of the list: “The flag of the Confederate States.”
Not on the list: The oft-displayed rainbow, or pride, flag of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) movements.
A senate staff analysis of SB 668, which was not withdrawn and would if passed and signed into law by Gov. DeSantis take effect July 1, does not mention the amendment’s endorsement of the confederate flag, but does state that the bill may have a “constitutional issue.”
That’s because “by limiting the flags that may be displayed by governmental agencies, local governments, or other units of local government,” the prohibition of other flags “may be determined to limit speech.”