By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Friday, April 28, 2017, Alabama House Democrats called on Governor Kay Ivey (R) to reject Senate Bill 60, which is sponsored by Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa). The Memorial Preservations Act is designed to protect Alabama’s cultural and historical heritage from the emotional whims of the mayors and city councils of the moment.
House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) said in a statement, “Gov. Ivey should send a clear message to our citizens and the nation that we are no longer a state stuck in the worn out fights of the past. We are looking forward and moving our State towards success and opportunity.”
Rep. Daniels said, “There is no place for any kind of backward facing legislation in a state that is serious about building prosperous future. This bill fails to move us one step closer to solving the real problems that concern citizens, and it actually sets back our efforts to attract the best and brightest workers and jobs to our State.”
Republicans in the Alabama House of Representatives, like Republican Senate Caucus, promised the voters before the Session began that they would pass legislation to protect Alabama’s historical monuments and memorials in their Alabama Proud legislative agenda. The bill was carried in the House by state Representative Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City). House Democrats, which are dominated by members from the minority community opposed that legislation so attempted every delaying tactic they could think of eventually forcing House Republicans to pass a cloture motion to end the lively debate. Because the bill was amended and substituted in the House, the Memorials measure now has to go back to the Senate and possibly a conference committee before it can reach the Governor’s desk.
While the bill protects all historical monuments, including those to the Civil Rights era, much of the focus of the debate was on Civil War memorials. In New Orleans, the mayor and city council removed several monuments honoring the state’s Civil War veterans before their legislature could act to protect them. New Orleans attacked the monuments on Confederate Memorial Day arguably to add more insult.
Rep. Daniels said, “If we are serious about advancing together as a State, we have to finally admit that the truth is not about who won or lost a war but about what we can do together to assure that everyone has a share of opportunity. I don’t see that value reflected in this bill, and from yesterday’s debate, it is clear that no one in that room could show it to me. So, I urge the governor to let local governments decide what belongs in the past, and let us focus on moving forward for the sake of all Alabamians.”
The Southern Historical Protection Group has led the grassroots push to lobby the legislature to pass a monuments bill. The Group’s President Mike Williams said, “Confederate Monuments not only belong to cities and counties but to the State of Alabama. These brave men answered the call to their STATE and nothing else. I urge Governor Ivey to sign this bill and there is no reason whatsoever that we cannot unify behind the history of ALL Alabamians. Montgomery and Alabama made American history by becoming the Capitol of this awful war and our State Capitol remains as a national landmark because it was the Capitol of the Confederate States of America. Cities and Counties have a method in which they can use if there is a need to remove a monument. The only reason otherwise would be for emotional correctness, with a disregard for the emotion of relatives of these brave Alabamians.” Mike Williams is also the past State Adjutant of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
The bill does not prevent a municipality from removing a memorial or renaming a public building; but it does force them to get a court order or approvals from a new State commission and can fine cities $25,000 in the House version or $100,000 in the Senate version for each violation of the law.
Time is running out in the legislative session which ends on May 22, though sources tell The Alabama Political Reporter that all the legislative days (limited by law in the regular session to just 30) will be used up by May 18. If the Senate does not finish SB60 quickly it may not have time to override a veto by Governor Ivey, if the new Governor chose to veto the measure.