Virginia lawmakers need to work out differences in statue bills

RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - Legislation that would allow Virginia localities control over Confederate monuments has passed the state Senate and House of Delegates.

While lawmakers have passed bills in both legislative bodies - SB183 and HB1537 - differences still need to be worked out before anything can be finalized in Virginia code.

The House of Delegates approved measures that would give cities and counties the power to remove monuments in a public space. 57th District Del. Sally Hudson has been an advocate for the legislation since she campaigned for office.

“Some have accused us of trying to erase history. We’re not. We’re trying to finally tell it,” Hudson said on the floor of the House Tuesday, February 11. “When I see the statues, like so many in Charlottesville, I can see the tires screeching from the car attack that took one life and ravaged so many more, the ones with scares that didn’t die that day, almost never get their stories told. That’s really what this bill is all about.”

HB1537 says the monuments would have to be offered to museums, historical societies, governments or military battlefields for 30 days before removal.

State senators also passed a bill that would grant a locality to “remove, relocate, or alter any monument or memorial for war veterans located in its public space, regardless of when erected.”

SB183 Includes similar requirements found in the House’s version, .but adds a public comment period, a historic review, and a majority vote from the local governing body.

Frank Dukes is a professor at the University of Virginia and a member of groups that advocate for local power over the monuments.

"It is really a monumental decision, but there are different versions of the bill, so they have to go back into the House and the Senate for them to figure out which one are they going to pass, is there going to be some combination?" Dukes said.

The professor believes that allowing localities to decide what can be done with the statues, gives a voice to the people who live there.

"It’s going to allow communities to allow conversations about their history," Dukes said.

A bill needs to be signed by Governor Ralph Northam before becoming law.

A spokesperson for Charlottesville says once the bill is signed, the city will start a process to remove its two Confederate statues from public parks.

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