Tennessee Republicans Seek To Change How Historical Monuments Are Removed

Tennessee Senate Bill 600 Would Cut In Half The Appointed Seats On The Historical Commission, Bringing It Down To 12 From 24. The Bill Would Also Change What Happens When The Commission Decides To Remove A Monument. After Their Approval, The General Assembly Would Also Have To Approve The Request.

Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville

Photo Credit: Nathan Bedford Forrest Bust Photo – Public Domain / State Capitol Building Photo – Adam Jones – CC

Published March 19, 2021

The Tennessee Conservative Staff –

Just a week after the decision to remove the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue from the state Capitol, Tennessee Republican lawmakers are hoping to change the way historical monuments like this are removed.

The Tennessee Heritage Protection Act was established in 2013 and offers a fairly long process when it comes to the removal of state monuments. This act was amended in both 2016 and 2018 and looks to be amended again.

Senate Bill 600 would cut in half the appointed seats on the Historical Commission, bringing it down to 12 from 24. The bill would also change what happens when the Commission decides to remove a monument. After their approval, the General Assembly would also have to approve the request.

The seats on the Historical Commission would be appointed by the governor, House Speaker, and Lieutenant, each one appointing four members.

Joey Hensley, the Republic Senator sponsoring SB600, said, “I don’t think any board or commission should be completely filled by the governor’s recommendations. We as a legislature are a co-equal branch of government, and we should have some say in these boards and commissions.”

Another bill sponsor, Republican Senator Mark Pody, said, “Even though the governor has been trying to reach out, perhaps, to get some insight from what we wanted, it’s been clear that our voices haven’t been heard.”

There has been some opposition to the bill, including Democratic Senator Heidi Campbell.

“I think that this is another attempt to move the goalpost, and these hurdles have been accomplished, and the decision has been decisive, that people want the bust moved, and so I think that it’s time to put it to rest,” Campbell said.

Some Republicans across the state have also opposed Hensley’s bill.

Republican Senator Mike Bell said, “If you want to look up the definition of arduous, and all the synonyms for it, that’s the process we’ve created for removing a monument. Every time we get a decision about a monument or a statue that we don’t like, we want to come back and change it again. If we want to just put it in our hands, let’s just do a bill to do away with it completely and let the legislature vote on it.”

Hensley’s office has said the senator’s goal with the bill is to “change the commission so that the legislature has input on the historical commission.”

“The legislature currently has no input and I believe that they should,” Hensley said.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has expressed concerns that the bill could cause more harm than good. He feels representation for Tennessee’s public would be cut in half, along with the commission.

A spokesperson for the Governor, Susan McClamroch, has said that Lee’s office is “very concerned with where this bill is going and its impact on the historical commission.”

The Forrest bust, and the busts of Albert Gleaves and David Farragut, were set for removal by the Historical Commission. The statues have been on the second floor of the state Capitol, but they will soon be moved to the Tennessee State Museum.

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