Two bills that would affect the ability of local governments to remove war monuments will be considered by the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday morning. The bills, HB71 and SB198, are expected to fail based on committee votes on similar bills last year.
HB71 by Shreveport Rep. Thomas Carmody won approval in the House on May 15 in a racially charged debate that fractured the House. SB198 by Franklinton Sen. Beth Mizell will be getting its first consideration.
Carmody's bill would require that local citizens be allowed to vote on any proposal by a local government to remove statues related to wars. The bill includes a long list of war celebrations that it covers.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has not said what he would do if Carmody's bill made it to his desk, but he pointed out that the wording of the bill would have required East Baton Rouge Parish to have held a referendum on the demolition of the old Alex Box Stadium on the LSU campus because Box was killed in World War II.
Mizell's bill would require legislative approval for the removal of any war statues in the state.
Roughly similar bills by the same legislators were considered and rejected by the same committee last year. Mizell's 2016 bill would have created a state commission to decide the fate of the monuments. Carmody's 2016 bill would have created a commission within the Department of Culture Recreation and Tourism to handle monument questions.
The effect of the 2016 and current versions of the bills would be to restrict the ability of local governments to remove monuments. All the bills were introduced in reaction to the decision by the mayor and City Council in New Orleans to remove three monuments to Confederate leaders and one monument to a riot by a white militia against the elected bi-racial government in Louisiana during Reconstruction.
New Orleans recently completed the removal of the four monuments honoring Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard, as well as the obelisk that celebrated the White League's riot at Liberty Place.
There are efforts underway in Shreveport and Lafayette to remove monuments to Confederate soldiers.
The nine-member committee has five Democrats and four Republicans. Committee chair Karen Carter Peterson votes only in event the other eight members of her committee split evenly on an issue. Peterson cast the decisive vote on Mizell's bill last year.