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story.lead_photo.caption Rep. John Payton, R-Wilburn, is shown in this file photo. - Photo by Jeff Mitchell

A revamped bill that would protect certain monuments on public property, including those honoring the Civil War, was rejected in a House committee Tuesday.

Senate Bill 515 by Sen. Mark Johnson, R-Little Rock, would require waivers to be granted by the Arkansas History Commission for changes to the monuments and would set criminal penalties for violations.

The House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee voted 5-11 on a motion to recommend House approval of the amended version of the bill. Eleven votes are required for approval of legislation in the 20-member committee. On Friday, none of the committee's members made a motion to recommend approval of an earlier version of the measure.

Johnson told the House committee that his bill "would keep someone from throwing away something that doesn't seem to have much value to your average Sheetrock hanger, but could mean a whole lot to the family of some veteran or someone else that was honored years ago.

"This is not to play gotcha with anybody. I think it is a simple solution to a problem that, if you think about it, is not really that complex, but to honor the heritage of our people in the past and certainly those who put themselves in harm's way for our citizens," he said.

A committee member, Rep. John Payton, R-Wilbur, said he favors the bill because "I believe it is little to ask that we go the extra mile to try to protect those memorials that have been set up by our ancestors because they wanted us to know and remember something that happened."

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

But another committee member, Rep. Gayla McKenzie, R-Gravette, said she opposed the bill because "we are taking the people's power and the people's voice and we are giving it to this commission where they will have no input, none.

"I agree that we need to be preserving a lot of things out of respect for our history. But I think you may find you are going to have a different result. These people are not elected. They are appointed, and governors change," she said. "What are you going to do when we decide we have got a better way and we want to repurpose something, a little more politically correct, whatever the motive?"

The committee vice chairman, Rep. Justin Gonzales, R-Okolona, who voted against the bill, said the Legislature passed a measure to protect some of the state-owned monuments during a previous legislative session.

"I think it is an extreme overreach when we go to telling cities and counties what they can do with their monuments that is on their property that they paid for," he said. "If the federal government came down and told us what to do with the monuments on our state Capitol grounds, we wouldn't like that. We would stand up and throw a fit about it."

The amended bill would define a monument as "a statute, memorial, gravestone plate, nameplate, plaque, historic flag display, school, bridge or building that" is on public property and has been erected for or named or dedicated in honor of a historical person, historical event, military organization or military unit and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The bill lists 17 military operations, ranging from the French and Indian War to the Civil War from World War II to Operation Just Cause, the U.S. invasion of Panama in late 1989 and early 1990.

"A monument shall not be relocated, removed, altered, renamed, rededicated, vandalized, damaged, destroyed or otherwise disturbed" under SB515.

An entity exercising control of public property that is a monument or on which a monument is situated may petition the History Commission for a waiver from the bill's requirements. The bill also would require the History Commission to file proposed rules to implement the measure with the Legislative Council before Jan. 1, 2020, so the council can consider the rules for approval before then.

Metro on 04/10/2019

Print Headline: Plan to protect statues falters


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  • RBear
    April 10, 2019 at 6:43 a.m.

    From the article, "A committee member, Rep. John Payton, R-Wilbur, said he favors the bill because 'I believe it is little to ask that we go the extra mile to try to protect those memorials that have been set up by our ancestors because they wanted us to know and remember something that happened.'" That's called a history book, Rep. Payton, and the history of the atrocities of the Civil War will never be erased. However, there is no reason to continue venerate those who rebelled against the Union for the sole purpose of owning slaves.
    Last night, Dr. Henry Louis Gates started a series on reconstruction that was eye-opening in many ways. It started with the mindset of Pres. Johnson who was a Democrat who opposed the rebellion because he felt benefited only those aristocrats in the South who were the primary holder of slaves. He was in opposition of his party which is why Lincoln asked him to be his running mate. There are many other points brought out in the series such as the challenges former slaves faced in integrating into society with a hostile white South.
    It provided details on the 1876 election, the closest in our nation's history and the resulting compromise that led to the end of reconstruction and the rise of white supremacy in the South, including the passage of Jim Crow laws. The post-war history has MANY issues that are surfaced in the series which concludes on April 16th.

  • mrcharles
    April 10, 2019 at 9:18 a.m.

    Slavery? So what, remember we protected the blacks in africa by bringing them here to protect them from tigers and leviathans. Also how could we then have ben carson say the ACA is equal to slavery.

    With the number of phones, the abundance of wifi, cannot all worshipers of the good old days of their ancestors to kill american soldier of the flag of Old Glory [ MOMG Gertrude look then nasty Negroes are kneeling and they aint even catholics or jews over there] just google history and have a plethora of information instead of an graven image that our book of ancients tells us not to do.

    There is of course the argument for the existence of these graven images, that of pigeon roots where by pigeons can do their stuff and we can then look at these images and say yes, that is very appropriate to the idea of these images and their carbon based units who are just mere mammals, closely related to killer chimpanzees.

    The most interesting part of this move to protect these IDOLS erected is the lesser imps such as the usual suspects here cause them to not have any integrity to say they want them to give the finger to the left, moderates, reasonable humans, minorities but to lie to children, including their own that somehow this is over a historical issue. come on guys and gals, have the integrity to say what you really think and why you really want these pigeon roost.

    Also, a query to the knowledgeable, if you put pigeon food on top of these abominations and the pigeons do what pigeons do, is the mere mammal who does this violate the soon to be stupid law?

  • Popsmith
    April 10, 2019 at 10:54 a.m.

    Please don't mess with my history.

  • RBear
    April 10, 2019 at 12:04 p.m.

    How is a monument history? Hilarious how idiotic some right wingers can be.

  • Waitjustaminute
    April 10, 2019 at 12:26 p.m.

    RBear, what channel is that series on?

  • RBear
    April 10, 2019 at 12:58 p.m.

    WJAM it's on PBS. You can also go to the PBS website to watch the two episodes from last night. Great series.

  • SWAL
    April 10, 2019 at 1:53 p.m.

    My Grandpa had a saying that would certainly apply to the first two commenters.

  • RBear
    April 10, 2019 at 2:11 p.m.

    SWAL the fact you don't have an opinion means you probably shouldn't comment.