Wednesday's meeting of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee had the makings of a donnybrook with two bills that would restrict the ability of local governments to remove Confederate monuments on its agenda.
HB71 by Shreveport Rep. Thomas Carmody had inflamed tensions in the House when it won approval there on May 15. The bill, the discussion and the vote enraged members of the Legislative Black Caucus who walked out of the House en masse after the vote.
SB198 by Franklinton Sen. Beth Mizell was set to get its first legislative exposure.
Activists on both sides of the issue were poised to pounce, but the showdown was delayed at the request of Rep. Carmody, according to J. Ashley Mitchell Carter, attorney for the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee.
"The bills were removed from today's agenda because the author of HB71 requested that his bill be rescheduled for next week's meeting," Carter wrote in an email to The Independent. "The author of SB198 agreed to having her bill heard on the same day as HB71. Both bills are scheduled for next week's meeting."
Both bills were filed in reaction to the City of New Orleans'k now-successful bid to remove four Confederate monuments from pubic grounds in the city. The monuments honored three Confederate leaders (Jefferson Davis, P.G.T. Beauregard and Robert E. Lee) and the riot at Liberty Place in which white supremacists sought to overthrow the state's elected governor.
The removal of the monuments was proposed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu and approved by the New Orleans City Council. The process advanced only after overcoming various legal challenges. You can read Landrieu's speech explaining the removals here.
Carmody's bill would require that a local government considering removing war monuments put such moves to a vote of the people in their jurisdiction. There is a movement afoot in Shreveport to remove a Confederate monument that stands in front of the Caddo Parish Courthouse.
Mizell's bill would allow removal of such statues only if the Legislature gave the move its approval.
Both bills face long odds in the committee chaired by Sen. Karen Carter Peterson of New Orleans. Three other committee members are also from New Orleans — Sens. Wesley Bishop, Troy Carter and Jean-Paul Morrell. Sen. Greg Tarver of Shreveport is another black member of the committee. Other members of the committee are Jack Donahue of Mandeville, Jim Fannin of Jonesboro, Neil Riser of Columbia and Mike Walsworth of West Monroe.
The chair only votes to break ties. The eight members of the committee are evenly split among Democrats and Republicans, as well as blacks and whites.
Carmody's bill is closest to the finish line, having already cleared the House. Should either or both bills advance after next week's meeting, the next stop would be the floor of the Senate. If Mizell's bill advances, it still must get to the House for committee assignment before it could be considered on the floor there.
The committee will meet next on Wednesday, May 31. The session must end by Thursday, June 8.