A plan that would make it harder to rename or remove Confederate memorials is on its way to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.
State senators voted Wednesday to approve a measure that would make local governments get permission from a state commission before making any changes to historical monuments.
The Tennessee Heritage Protection Act,
Senate Bill 2138, would apply to everything from the statues at the Capitol to street signs and city parks named in honor of an historic figure or event. Before any changes, governments would have to go before the Tennessee Historical Commission.
There would have to be a pair of hearings over the course of six months. Two-thirds of the commission would have to sign off. Then, there would be a lengthy appeals process.
State Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis, opposes the measure. He says its goal is to make removing a memorial so hard no one ever bothers.
“Times change. And this provision will set up a new set of protocols about how they think about and whether they can undertake those necessary responses to changes in their community.”
But supporters of the measure say drawing things out is actually a good thing.
State Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, notes that many people called for the immediate removal of a bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state Capitol after last summer’s shooting in Charleston.
“And I don’t want us to try and erase our history because of a moment of political correctness. I want us to be very thoughtful.”
The bill passed the state Senate on a 28-4 vote. Harris joined fellow Memphis Sen. Sara Kyle, a Democrat, and two Nashville senators, Republican Steve Dickerson and Democrat Jeff Yarbro, in opposing the measure.
Gov. Haslam hasn’t said yet whether he’ll sign it. A spokeswoman says he’s been inclined to defer to the legislature on the matter but would review the measure before making a final decision.