Georgia House subcommittee approves monument bill

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A group of state lawmakers gave their stamp of approval Tuesday to a bill that would increase the protections for Confederate and other monuments in Georgia. 

"So instead of destroying monuments [...] and memorials, we should just build more," said State Senator Jeff Mullis, R- Chickamauga, the bill's primary sponsor.

Mullis presented Senate Bill 77 to the House Governmental Affairs State and Local Government Subcommittee.  The legislation would institute significant fines for anyone caught vandalizing or damaging a monument, whether it commemorates a war, civil rights or any other event or person of cultural significance in the state. 

"These monuments can't protect themselves; the people of Georgia must protect them," said Martin O'Toole, spokesman for the Georgia Sons of Confederate Veterans. 

Martin said recent vandalism of Confederate and other war memorials in Georgia highlights the importance of this legislation.

"This bill is another effort to protect the Confederacy, not The United States of America," said Atlanta NAACP President Richard Rose, who opposes the measure.  "This bill is another declaration of war against black Americans."

The bill also prohibits local governments from removing or relocating monuments to a less prominent location, as was recently discussed in the City of Decatur where a Confederate obelisk sits outside the historic courthouse building. 

State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, tried to amend Senate Bill 77 to allow for local control of these monuments, but the effort failed.

The bill now goes to the full House Governmental Affairs Committee for review.