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Bill to rename federal courthouse in Tallahassee fails in U.S. House of Representatives

Bill did not earn 2/3 majority yes votes to pass
Jimmy Carter, Reubin Askew
Posted at 1:34 AM, Apr 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-01 17:29:22-04

WASHINGTON (WTXL) — A bill that would have renamed a federal courthouse in Tallahassee to recognize the first African American Florida Supreme Court justice failed to pass in the United States House of Representatives.

According to United States Congress database, Bill S.2938/ H.R.4771 failed to pass in the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday.

The bill secured 238 yes votes and 187 no votes.

In order for the bill to pass in the House, 2/3 of the available 431 voting members of the House of Representatives needed to vote in favor of the bill.

The bill did not obtain the number of yes votes required to pass.

The House normally has 435 members. The vote included one present and five non-voting members.

The bill was introduced by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, on Oct. 5, 2021.

The bill, which was also co-sponsored by Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott, passed unanimously in the United States Senate on Dec. 9, 2021.

If the bill passed in the House, the courthouse, located at 111 North Adams Street in Florida's capital city, would have been renamed the Joseph Woodrow Hatchett United States Courthouse and Federal Building.

By failing to pass in the House, the bill will not be signed into law by President Joe Biden.

According to a news release Thursday from U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, who represents Florida’s 5th Congressional District that includes portions of the city of Tallahassee, the bill received opposition from Georgia Rep. Andrew S. Clyde.

Clyde, a Republican, represents Georgia's Ninth Congressional District in northeast Georgia.

Lawson, a Democrat who sponsored the bill in the House, said Clyde shared a 1999 ruling by Hatchett regarding student prayer at a public school district's graduation ceremonies.

The congressman from Florida noted some Republican members changed yes votes to no.

Sixteen Republicans representing congressional districts in Florida were co-sponsors of the bill.

Six voted to pass the bill.

Florida Republican congressman Neal P. Dunn, who represents District 2 that includes parts of Tallahassee and Leon County, voted against the bill.

Ten Florida congressional Democrats, who were co-sponsors of the document, voted for the bill.

Hatchett died April 30, 2021, at age 88.

The Florida Bar obituary on Hatchett noted Hatchett served as a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit from 1979-99 and was the circuit court's chief justice from 1996-99.

According to an Associated Press article from May 1999, Hatchett was part of the majority opinion by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeal that ruled a Duval County School district’s policy to allow student-approved prayer during graduation ceremonies violated constitutional protections of freedom of religion.

The Associated Press provided Hatchett's majority opinion: "We hold that the Duval County school system's policy coerces objecting students to participate in prayer."

A request for comment submitted by ABC 27 to Rep. Clyde’s office was not returned by Thursday evening.

Lawson, who voted for the bill, noted in the press release that Hatchett’s 1999 ruling followed a previous U.S. Supreme Court decision about student prayer in public schools.

Hatchett, a Florida A&M University alum, served as the 65th justice of the Florida Supreme Court from 1975-79.

Hatchett, a native of Clearwater, earned his law degree from Howard University.

“Judge Hatchett was a true social justice pioneer and public servant who devoted his career to advocating for civil rights," Lawson said in a statement. "Hatchett was dedicated to his home state of Florida, where he served in many positions in the military and the federal and local justice systems. It would’ve been an honor to recognize such a leader."

NOTE: The story has been updated to reflect the involvement of Florida Sen. Rick Scott and Rep. Neal Dunn on the bill.

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