Georgia legislators have given final legislative approval to a law that imposes stiffer penalties on those who vandalize public monuments and makes it harder to move existing monuments.
The passage of Senate Bill 77, coming as Georgia’s legislative session comes to its Tuesday close, seals the fate of House Bill 175, which included banning the use of public funds to display Confederate monuments unless they are inside.
“It’s time for these symbols to come down,” said Democratic state Rep. Renitta Shannon, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
“This bill is simply about restoring the dignity of Georgia’s black taxpayers. Outlawing using taxpayer money to commemorate Confederate culture means I don’t have to pay to support recognized symbols of my own oppression,” she said,
SB 77 passed in the House 100-71 on Thursday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The bill then bounced back to the Senate to approve wording changes made by the House. The Senate approved the bill Friday, sending it to the desk of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for approval, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.
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The bill allows local or state agencies to move statues, but only for construction projects, when they must be placed “in a site of similar prominence.” It also bans them being shunted indoors.
ATLANTA – Lawmakers have approved a plan to increase penalties for those who vandalize a monument and to further limit where local officials can move a monument, requiring them to be moved to a place of similar visibility. https://t.co/BhjrD1e0FK
— VDT Government (@VDT_Government) April 1, 2019
Republicans who supported the legislation said the bill was about all history.
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“This bill is about inclusion, diversity and tolerance,” said state Rep. Alan Powell, according to the Journal-Constitution. “This isn’t about Confederate monuments, it’s about all monuments.”
Powell, prior to Thursday’s vote, showed legislators images of vandalized monuments.
The legislation comes at a time when Confederate memorials have stirred controversy throughout the South.
“It’s become chic” to desecrate monuments in the name of politics, Powell said, when in reality, “it’s a crime.”
Anyone caught vandalizing a statue will be forced to pay three times the costs of cleanup. Current law leaves that issue to a judge’s discretion.
“Is there no greater hate crime than to destroy history? To destroy a monument that was put out there to remember what came before,” Powell said, according to Georgia Public Broadcasting.
Powell said trying to pick and choose what anyone wants history to be about is wrong.
“You can find something bad about anyone and anything in history but, let me tell you, folks, history is what history is,” Powell said.
Powell also said the past deserves respect.
“You’re always taught to respect your elders, respect those that came before you, you might not like it, you might not approve of it,” said Powell, according to the Saporta Report.
“If you fail to protect one person’s monument, then be prepared to have someone not protect yours,” Powell also said, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.
Republican state Sen. Jeff Mullis, who supported the bill, said he proposed it not to “protect any particular monuments, it’s to protect all monuments.”
“We need to calm down and respect the wishes of our previous ancestors of whatever kind of monument their city thought was important at that time,” he said.
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