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Senate approves two-song state song compromise

State Senators approved a compromise plan that would keep cleaned-up version of Florida's controversial state song while making a song by a South Florida school teacher Florida's state anthem.

Under the Senate proposal approved 39-0, "The Swanee River (Old Folks at Home)" by Stephen Foster will be kept as the state's song. But the song, which became the state's song in 1935, will use revised lyrics adopted by the Center for American Music at the University of Pittsburgh that remove references to "darkies" and to the "old plantation," which have brought the song under fire in recent years.

Sen. Tony Hill, a Jacksonville Democrat, kicked off the search for a new state song last year, with online voters eventually settling on "Florida Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky" by Pompano Beach school teacher Jan Hinton.

But some lawmakers said "Old Folks at Home" -- written in 1851 by Foster who misspelled the Suwanee -- said the song had a long tradition in the state and should be kept with the new lyrics, leading to the two-song compromise.

And senators said they were happy to remove the racially offensive lyrics.

"I think it brings a lot of relief to the people of the state of Florida," said Sen. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Democrat. "I'm just so glad this is taking place."

The proposal now heads to the House.