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Public Hearing on Monuments Bill

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Tuesday, February 9, the Alabama Senate Governmental Affairs Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 13, the monuments bill introduced by State Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa).

This bill would create the Alabama Heritage Preservation Act of 2016.  This bill would prohibit the relocation, removal, alteration, renaming, or other disturbance of certain commemorative statues, monuments, memorials, or plaques which are located on public property.  This bill would prohibit any person from preventing the governmental entity having responsibility for maintaining the objects from taking proper measures to protect, preserve, care for, repair, or restore the objects.  The bill would also authorize the Alabama Legislative Council to grant waivers under certain circumstances and would provide for the levy of fines against governmental entities that act without approval of the Legislative Council.  This bill would also exempt certain art and artifacts, the Department of Transportation, and local highway departments under certain limited circumstances.

Mike Williams, the Adjutant of the Sons of Confederate Veterans said, “Thank you.  You answered your call of duty for your state, so did my grandfathers.”  They did not just take their pitch forks and decide to start a revolt, their state asked them to serve and they answered that call.

Williams said that this is about Confederate monuments, but predicted that if the State allows county and municipal governments the authority to remove monuments that it won’t end with Confederate monuments. “We can’t erase history as it is.” 

SB 13 would create a seven member Permanent Joint Committee on Alabama Monument Protection.  The legislative committee could grant case by case waivers to the law; but there would be a lengthy process with public hearings.

The Executive Director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, Sonny Brasfield spoke in opposition to Allen’s bill.  Brasfield said that the legislature is assuming that County Commissioners or a city council will make a bad decision.  He said that local government is much more likely to respond to the public will than the legislature would.  The best decision making is at the local level.

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Kevin L. Mount said, “The Confederate history is the elephant in the room we all know that but this is not going to stop with Confederate history.”  “Confederate history should not be a Black White issue.  People outside the state have made it at a Black White issue to further their own selfish political agenda.”

Rev. Rayford Mack, who is with the NAACP said “We had enough sense to elect you to this office, why can’t we make that same decision locally about the monuments in our town.” 

Chairman Jimmy Holley (R from Elba) said that the vote will be the first item on the committee’s agenda next week.

The City of New Orleans is in the process of removing a number of monuments to the Confederacy. Birmingham is considering moving the Confederate Veterans Memorial out of Linn Park.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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