Confederate monuments bill fails in La. House committee

Confederate monuments bill fails in La. House committee

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A House committee put the brakes on a bill Thursday that would have created a new roadblock in efforts to remove Confederate monuments across Louisiana.

With a 7-7 vote in the House Committee on Municipal, Parochial, and Cultural Affairs, lawmakers left HB 944 in a state of limbo. The white Republicans voted in favor of the measure, while the African American Democrats voted against it. Four other members were absent.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, would take away the power of states and local governments to move monuments.

"The good, the bad, the warts and all, is our story," said Carmody, who told the committee that the bill is about preserving history. "You need to know where we came from so you can make good decisions about where we need to go."

Instead, if the bill were to become law, local and state governments would have to appeal to a seven-person statewide board, which would decide what to do with monuments around Louisiana. The members of the board would be appointed by the governor and other high-ranking state officials.

"The state of Louisiana is bigger than just our 64 parishes as individual 64 parishes. It is all of our history collectively," Carmody.

Supporters told the committee that having a panel would prevent "knee-jerk" reactions and create a check to local decisions to remove the monuments.

Back in December 2015, the New Orleans City Council voted to remove four high-profile monuments from the Crescent City. Carmody's bill would create a roadblock in those efforts.

Those objecting to the bill wanted power over the monuments to remain in the local municipalities, fearing that the centralized board may not understand local feelings and frustrations.

"What represents bravery to some, represents something else to others," said Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, who floated the idea of putting the monuments in a museum.

Others voting against the bill objected to Carmody's notion that removing the monuments would erase history.

"If history has been erased, it is our history that's been erased. Totally erased," said Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge, referring to the story of African Americans in Louisiana.

"There's no way we can erase our history, we may remove some monuments, but our history stays with us forever," said Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport.

Conversely, those in favor also had their chance to testify.

"We live every day and see things. You can't hide it, you shouldn't hide it. We should all learn from  it," said one supporter.

"We should note whitewash history. We should not forget the good, the bad, or the ugly," said another supporter of the bill.

Because of the split vote, the bill technically is not dead. Carmody indicated he is considering moving the bill to the House floor using a special procedure.

If the bill does somehow manage to get to the Senate side, it will likely face an uphill battle. A Senate committee killed a similar bill last week.

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