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Confederate monuments bill stalls in committee

It appears this bill will once again be prevented from becoming law.

A Confederate monument in Birmingham is removed by the city.
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The latest attempt by State Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, to punish cities for removing Confederate monuments has been thwarted again, at least for now.

State Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Josephine, told Allen he doesn’t have the votes to advance the bill out of committee and tabled the bill. 

Unless Allen can rework the bill to sway the votes of his colleagues, it appears this bill will once again be prevented from becoming law.

The bill does not differ much from its most recent iteration, when Allen slipped the language into a bill meant to exempt the removal of the Saturn 1B rocket in Huntsville. It would basically assess a $5,000 fine per day for counties and municipalities that remove a historical monument over 40 years of age until the monument is restored.

Under current law, a city or county government can request a waiver to avoid the fine, which would be reviewed by the Alabama Historic Preservation Committee. As it is written today, if the committee does not meet and decide on the waiver within 90 days, the waiver is automatically granted. Allen’s bill would change that so that it would be automatically denied instead.

Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, questioned that revision.

“If this committee’s sole thing is to maintain the status quo, why would they meet?” Coleman-Madison asked.

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Coleman-Madison said she is not opposed to the display of Confederate monuments in theory, but chided the state for “not telling the whole truth about history.”

“Even after the (Confederate) nation lost a war against the United States, we still want to uphold and reflect all of that,” Coleman-Madison said. 

“We would glorify that which is inglorious,” added Sen. Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery.

The bill also took heat from critics during a public hearing.

Camille Bennett, founder of Project Say Something, told about her organization’s fight to have a monument removed or relocated in Lauderdale County and noted the monument’s racist roots.

“When this Confederate monument was erected in 1903, D.A. Moody called Black people the ‘mongrel race,’” Bennett said. She said that in discussion with Allen, he argued that it would also protect monuments for Martin Luther King Jr., but Bennett said that was a false equivalency.

Sonny Kirkpatrick of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama and Beth Lyons representing the City of Mobile both told the committee that the counties and cities are opposed to the legislation.

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“The cities didn’t like this bill to being with in 2017 and it continues to have onerous provisions,”Lyons said.

Brasfield said decisions “ought to be made at the local level” and also asked Allen to remove the $5,000 per day fine from the bill entirely. He also humorously suggested that the Legislature ought to automatically kill bills that don’t come up for a vote within a certain amount of days.

David Gespass with the National Lawyers Guild called the bill “Consitutionally suspect” and posted the state would spend more money defending the bill than it would ever receive from fines for violations.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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