The Georgia House of Representatives approved a bill that would protect Confederate monuments and increase penalties for those who damage or destroy them. The law would also make it harder for local governments to replace or move monuments.
Chickamauga Republican State Sen. Jeff Mullis’s Senate Bill 77 passed 100 to 71 on Thursday, placing the bill one step closer to going into effect, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
After the House approved the bill, it was sent back to the state Senate for reconciliation. The Senate already approved it on its first pass through the upper chamber, and if approved a second time, the bill will end up on Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk.
While arguing in favor of the bill, Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) noted that monuments to World War I had also been damaged in the Peach State.
“This bill is about inclusion, diversity, and tolerance,” Powell said. “This isn’t about Confederate monuments; it’s about all monuments.”
Powell excoriated the destruction of Georgia’s monuments, lamenting that it has become “chic” to destroy them.
“It’s not civil disobedience; it’s a crime,” Powell scoffed.
The new law would take away judicial discretion in vandalism cases and set an automatic charge of three times the cost, along with legal fees, of repairing or replacing any monument that vandals destroy.
The legislation would also force counties and local municipalities seeking to move a memorial to place it in an area that has “similar prominence” of the original site. In other words, cities would not be allowed to hide a monument in a building — such as a library or museum — or place it in storage.
The rule would essentially make moving a monument meaningless for those wishing to remove such statues from the public’s eye.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.