Proposed bill seeks to protect heritage monuments

In June, we took a closer look into the presence of Confederate statues statewide and what their future may hold. Now, another twist in that debate is taking place at the Capitol.

In August of 2015, the University of Texas removed the Jefferson Davis statue from the Main Mall on campus. 

The decision to relocate the 82-year-old statue to the Briscoe Center for American History was met with mixed reaction. 

But a new proposal would take that decision out of the university's hands. 

"This particular issue in protecting heritage monuments, in protecting the ability for parents to teach history in the way they see fit for their children," said state Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), who proposed Senate Bill 112.  

The legislation would protect any monument or memorial located on state property that honors an event or person of historical significance and has been in place for at least 40 years. That would also cover the names of bridges, parks, and streets. 

"We should teach from it. We should understand the history behind them - whether that's an incredibly proud moment in history or a moment that we should learn from, and we all understand was wrong and never should have happened," Creighton said, adding the proposal had more to do with "heritage monuments" around the state rather than solely Confederate monuments. 

The bill would cover monuments ranging from the Alamo to the Sam Houston Statue to the Confederate War Memorial. 

"No matter what the monument is, that we not tear down history and remove it, shove it in a closet, put it in an obscure place, or just send it to a museum that quite frankly a lot of kids, everyday folks don't feel comfortable going into or necessarily have access to in their neighborhoods," said Creighton. 

"If you want to record history, we've got history books. We've got cases in the library where you can showcase different things in an educational and learning setting," countered Gary Bledsoe, the President of the Texas NAACP. 

He said the proposal is a step back from nationwide momentum to re-examine the presence of Confederate-era tributes. 

"Don't divide us over things that should not have a great meaning because you can respect your ancestors without denigrating me," said Bledsoe. 

If passed, Bledsoe fears the bill could create a financial ripple effect. 

"I think there's a real potential economic blow back both in terms of corporate relocations and also tourism," Bledsoe explained. 

Bledsoe said he believed the proposal was in response to the University of Texas moving the Jefferson Davis statue, though Creighton said he'd been considering such legislation for the past five to six years. 

So far, Creighton said he's received mostly positive feedback on the bill. 

While the cut-off for full protection is 40 years, a separate chapter in the bill addresses statues that are at least 20-years-old but less than 40-years-old. 

In those cases, the proposal states that they can only be removed or altered by vote from that respective area in an election called over that reason. 

As for the 40-year benchmark, Creighton said they viewed similar legislation in other states, but added they were open to considering other timeframes. 

To read KVUE's report on the presence of Confederate-era monuments, statues, and markers, click here

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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