House sub sinks another bill inspired by Confederate monument flap

The House State Government Subcommittee on Wednesday rejected a bill to expand state law dealing with historic monuments, reports The Tennessean. It’s the third bill inspired by the City of Memphis’ maneuvers on Confederate statues to fail so far this session.

The measure (HB 2146) sponsored by Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, would have made the state part owner of all property under control of local government so long as it contains a historical statue or monument or is named after a person or event.

The legislation also threatened elected officials with removal from office if they ignored a decision from the state historical commission.

Hill said he introduced the legislation in response to Memphis officials’ decision to remove two controversial statues on public property last year and in order to give the state law additional “teeth.”

Further, the measure would have been retroactive and applied to all properties owned by local governments since April 2013, when the state’s Heritage Protection Act was enacted.

The purpose of such a measure, Hill said, was to give the historical commission additional power.

While presenting the bill, Hill said it was needed because while the commission can deny a request of a local government like it did in Memphis, nothing would stop the local government from taking a similar approach as Bluff City.

… Several members of the House State Government Subcommittee expressed hesitation regarding the bill.

Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Old Hickory, said he worried about the measure because it gave the historical commission — which consists of political appointees — the power of eminent domain.

“I’m not comfortable with giving them that power,” he said.

Rep. Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport, said he was concerned about the potential for the state to be on the hook financially if someone gets injured on the properties in question.

And Rep. Bill Sanderson, R-Kenton, asked Hill how many properties and artifacts would apply under the legislation, to which the sponsor said he was unsure.

… Two other measures introduced after Memphis’ action last year appear to have been halted as well.

..A proposal (HB2554) that prohibits public entities from selling, transferring or donating historical memorials in order to circumvent the state’s Heritage Protection Act.

A bill (HB2131) that would withhold state funds from local governments if they sell, remove, relocate or destroy historical memorials after being denied a waiver from the historical commission.

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