By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, April 12, 2017, the Alabama House State Government Committee gave a favorable report to Senate Bill 60, sponsored by Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa).
SB60 had been held over a week following a public hearing in which the Association of County Commissions and the Mobile Chamber of Commerce objected to parts of this version of the bill.
Sen. Gerald Allen said that we have had extensive discussions on how to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill. On March 8 the Committee gave a favorable report to House Bill 349 the Memorial Preservation Act, sponsored by state Representative Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City). That bill however has not yet been passed on the House floor.
The State Government Committee is chaired by state Representative Mark Tuggle (R-Alexander City). Chairman Tuggle said that Sen. Allen has worked with Rep. Butler trying to reconcile the two bills.
Rep. Butler said that we went from no fine in the House version and $100,000 fine in the Senate version to a $25,000 fine.
Representative Barbara Boyd (D-Anniston) has expressed some reservations with the bill. She said, “I have to accept those things that I can not change.” I have done the best that I can for the people that I represent.
Rep. Randy Wood (R-Anniston) motioned to give the bill a favorable report. That motion carried. SB60 now goes to the House floor.
Rep. Butler told The Alabama Political Reporter that the agreed upon changes to the bill will be made on the House floor. If the bill passes the House, the Senate would still have to agree to the changes made by the House or the differences would have to be reconciled in a conference committee.
The President of the Southern Historical Protection Group Mike Williams said in a statement, “I am proud that the Memorial Preservation Bill, known as SB60 has progressed through the Senate and now has passed the House of Representatives State Government Committee. I hope the body of the House understands that memorials were someone’s way of honoring people who they felt were worthy. I also hope that opponents of the bill realize that one day it could be something that they hold dear that is abolished, moved or destroyed and that their grandchildren will say that there was an opportunity to stop this political correctness yet they voted against it. There is no motive for wanting this bill passed except to ensure that these memorials are around to tell a story. I hope all sides of this issue will use these to teach and tell the story. Just as in biblical times, the Israelis were told to pile rocks so that a story could be told in the future. To remind of the hardships of the past, and the heroic deeds of those who went before us.”
Confederate monuments and memorials dot the landscape of Alabama, especially on the State Capital grounds. The future of many of those monuments were threatened in hysteria following the mass shooting of Black Church attendees in Charleston South Carolina by a young White racist. Several city councils considered removing their Confederate memorials. Grass roots efforts by supporters of Confederate history, however rose up to defend southern culture and historical preservation leading to calls for some sort of a monuments or memorials bill to make it harder for local governments to erase historical monuments left to us by the generations that went before.
Both the House and Senate Republican Caucuses promised voters before the session that they would make this a priority of the 2017 Legislative Session.