Following legislation filed in the Georgia House to remove protections for monuments related to the Confederacy, Republicans in the Senate have filed legislation to provide further protections.
Senate Bill 77 was filed by Senators Jeff Mullis, Steve Gooch, Butch Miller, Mike Dugan, Burt Jones, and Greg Kirk all ranking Republicans in the Senate.
The proposal would make liable for damages in the amount of the ‘full cost of repair or replacement’ any person who damages, destroys, loses, or removes a monument without replacing it. The language calls for ‘exemplary’ or punitive damages as well, which could be assessed in addition to the cost of replacement or repair.
The bill defines ‘monument’ as:
“a monument, plaque, statue, marker, flag, banner, structure name, display, or memorial constructed and located with the intent of being permanently displayed and perpetually maintained that is dedicated to a historical entity or historically significant military, religious, civil, political, social, or cultural events or series of events.”
Additionally, the offender would be responsible for attorney’s fees and court costs ‘expended by the public entity and owner of the monument’ which were used to establish liability and collect amounts owed.
Current law makes it a misdemeanor to deface, defile, or damage a monument.
The bill provides a definition for locations where monuments are located that are included and who is disqualified from removing them. According to the language, “any agency or officer of” and any property of any local government entity, department, authority, board, commission, local board of education, the University System of Georgia and any subsidiaries in the state of Georgia are not authorized to remove or conceal the display public monuments. Essentially, only the legislature would be able to approve the removal of any monuments, Confederate or otherwise.
The bill provides an exception for relocation if necessary for the construction, expansion, or alteration of edifices, buildings, roads, streets, highways, or other transportation construction projects, but requires that the monument have “similar prominence, honor, visibility, and access within the same county or municipality in which the monument was originally located.” It specifically prohibits the relocation to a museum.
Democrats in the House and Senate filed separate legislation to adjust the laws protecting Confederate monuments.
House Bill 175, which has not yet been assigned to a committee, strikes language from OCGA 50-3-1 which currently prohibits the removal, relocation, or defacing of publicly owned monuments, plaques markers, or memorials which are dedicated to, honor, or recount the military service of any past present military personnel. HB 175 strikes the protections for monuments and plaques related to the “Confederate States of America or the several states thereof.” Currently, it’s a misdemeanor to deface, defile, remove, or relocate monuments on public property.
Additionally, the bill amends language related to Stone Mountain. Current law ensures that the faces on Stone Mountain can never be removed, altered, concealed, or obscured and OCGA 50-3-1(c) says Stone Mountain “shall be preserved and protected for all time as a tribute to the bravery and heroism of the citizens of this state who suffered and died in their cause.”
Read more about the Democrat proposal last week here.
The bill has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Government Oversight.
Read the bill here.