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Bill OK’d to protect Confederate monuments
By JIM WALLS
March 4, 2015 — Cities and counties could not remove monuments and other symbols of the Confederacy without relocating them to a place of equal prominence under a bill passed today by a House committee.
HB 50, proposed by Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson), would only allow government agencies to move such monuments to make way for construction of roads or other public facilities. In those cases, monuments would have to be placed at “a site of similar prominence, honor, visibility, availability and access” in the same county.
The bill would also expand the definition of protected monuments to include statues, flags, banners, structure names and displays that were meant to be permanently displayed.
Benton was among several lawmakers who questioned the 2013 removal of a statue of former U.S. Sen. Tom Watson from the Capitol Grounds. Watson, a populist politician turned white supremacist, is credited with fanning the flames that led to the 1915 lynching of Leo Frank.
“They’re attempting to whitewash history so that only the things that are pertinent to them are remembered,” Mr. Benton said in 2013 of moves to banish public memorials to Georgia’s Confederate past.
Benton pointed out his bill would protect monuments to Revolutionary War and other United States military service.
Both the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia oppose the measure, which they said would unfairly usurp local control.
The House State Properties Commission, which endorsed Benton’s bill today, approved a similar proposal in 2014 that never advanced to the House floor.