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Memorial Act of 2017 gets favorable report

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Wednesday, March 8, 2017, the Alabama House State Government Committee gave a favorable report to House Bill 349 the Memorial Preservation Act, sponsored by state Representative Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City).

The President of the Southern Historical Protections Group Mike Williams told The Alabama Political Reporter, “With all of the bad publicity the City of New Orleans is getting, and the calls for boycotts of that city, I am feeling somewhat more confident that House Bill 349, or the Alabama Memorial Act of 2017, when reconciled with Senate bill 60, will provide some protections for those honorable memorials in Alabama that were long ago dedicated for the valor of heroic Alabamians. It appears likely that Alabama will pass a Memorial Protection bill after failing to do so the previous two sessions.”

The House Republican Caucus named this legislation part of the “Alabama Proud” legislative agenda for the 2017 Legislative Session.

The Caucus wrote: “Alabamians are deeply proud of our history, which has played a vital and important role in some of the seminal events in America’s past. Our state sent soldiers to bravely fight in the nation’s wars, and the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement used their feet as weapons to knock down doors that blocked their progress. While Alabama’s history has been controversial and painful at times, it has also contributed to making our nation a freer, stronger, and better land as a result. Some more radical elements across the nation have sought to tear down reminders of our history and prevent future generations from learning lessons that past experience can teach. House Republicans understand the importance of using the past as a roadmap for our future, so our “Alabama Proud” agenda includes legislation that would prevent the removal of long-standing monuments, statues and memorials and a bill that requires mandatory civics education and makes successful passage of a citizenship exam a prerequisite for high school graduation.”

State Representative Kyle South (R-Fayette) is the sponsor of HB99, the Memorial Preservation Act.

State Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) sponsored similar legislation in the Alabama Senate. On Thursday, March 9, 2017 the Alabama Senate passed Sen. Allen’s bill. Sen. Allen said in a statement, “The goal of this bill is to protect all periods of Alabama’s history for our children and grandchildren to learn from. Too often, in convulsions of political correctness, a local official will hastily rip down a monument or a statue because it offends the sensibilities of someone, somewhere.”

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Sen. Allen said, “History isn’t always pleasant and our forbearers have not always acted with honor. But healing in the present is not found by erasing the past,” Allen continued. “Only if our past is understood and remembered may we be inspired by its examples of heroism, and yes, sobered by its episodes of oppression. This proposal prevents the hasty and thoughtless destruction of historical markers so that we and our descendants may continue to learn from the past, in order to create a better future.”

Butler’s bill creates the Alabama Committee on Memorial Preservation.

State Representative Ralph Howard (D-Greensboro) asked how the sponsors arrived at 50 years for its prohibition on renaming buildings.

Rep. South said that that was the general standard used for getting a building on the registry of historic places.

Rep. Butler said that this bill is just about those historic monuments that are above ground. Anything that is an artifact and is dealt with below by Federal law.

HB349 now moves to the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives.

A number of cities in Alabama have recently tried to remove Civil War monuments left to us by previous generations of Alabamians.

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

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