The vote, which went down Thursday morning, came after a request from Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner, who asked Rules Chairman David Simmons in June to have the flag taken off the seal. Senate President Andy Gardiner then formally requested that the committee take up the issue and make recommendations for full Senate action.
“The recommendation to remove the Confederate flag from our seal will never erase a painful period in Florida’s history, nor the blood recently spilled in a South Carolina church in its name,” said Joyner in an email statement. “But the unified voices ratifying this action gives us hope for healing these wounds once and for all. And, as we look forward to the full Senate’s endorsement, a powerful symbol that we stand together as one.”
The request for the change came after the Charleston, South Carolina, shootings this summer, when a white man shot and killed members of traditionally black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church during a group Bible study. The murders were racially motivated and the suspect, Dylann Roof, associated himself with white supremacy. The mass shooting ended with nine people killed and began a national backlash to have the Confederate flag taken down from all state government grounds.
Following the shootings, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced that the Confederate flag would be taken down from government buildings. This then led the speaker of the state of Mississippi to call for the Confederate flag to be removed from the state flag's design.
Florida removed flags with the Confederate emblem on them from State Capitol grounds in 2001, but the Senate Seal has remained the same.
The original seal contains the flag of the United States, Great Britain, France and Spain, with the Confederate Flag between the American and Spanish flag. According to the state, each flag had at one time flown in Florida, while the quill depicts the writing of laws, the gavel authority in the presiding officer, and the scroll signifying the parchment on which laws are permanently written.
The idea now is to replace the Confederate flag with the flag of Florida. The final decision will now move over to entire Senate, who will vote on removing the flag.
Under Senate rules, two-thirds of the sitting membership must approve the recommendation to change the official seal. That vote is expected to come as the 2016 legislative session convenes in January.