Legislators act to deter any future Confederate monument removals

Legislators gave final approval Wednesday to a bill intended to block local governments from future actions like the City of Memphis’ December move to remove Confederate monuments from city parks. The bill prohibits sale or transfer of public property containing a statue without permission of the Tennessee Historical Commission and says local governments violating the new law are barred from receiving state grant funds for five years.

The bill (HB1574) was approved by the House 70-19 on Tuesday and by the Senate 25-5 on Wednesday. The Senate added a relatively minor amendment – it says the new law “shall be liberally construed in favor of historical preservation” by any court dealing with the issue – and final approval came when the House concurred with the amendment later Wednesday.

From a Tennessean report posted after the Tuesday House vote but prior to final action:

The bill also allows “any entity, group or individual” with a “real interest in a memorial” to seek an injunction in Davidson County court if they believe a public entity has violated the law. The court could issue a restraining order or an injunction to preserve the memorial in question.

The bill’s introduction comes after Memphis officials, who were previously denied a waiver from the state commission to remove statues, sold two public parks in December to a nonprofit, which removed statues of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

As the bill was being discussed in the House on Tuesday, Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, tried to get Rep. Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads, to explain if the measure was a response to Memphis’ action.

“There have been events that have helped shape and mold the legislation that is before you today,” McDaniel said.

Hardaway said he thought McDaniel’s bill was an attempt to firm up a loophole in the state’s Heritage Protection Act. As such, Hardaway said he would like to see the legislature revisit its move last week to remove $250,000 from its version of the $37.5 billion state budget.

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