Without amendment, monument bill could have stopped AHS projects

Published 1:26 am Tuesday, May 30, 2017

But for an executive amendment added by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a bill designed to protect Confederate monuments would have had the unintended consequence of halting school projects like the one planned at Andalusia High School later this year.

Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, said the bill could have had devastating consequences, if Ivey had not acted quickly and decisively.

The Senate approved Senate Bill 60 in March, and the House passed an amended version of the bill in April. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa, and promoted by the Southern Historical Protection Group and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, prevents the removal of most monuments 20 years and older.

But Jones said language added to the bill in conference committee would also have stopped the alteration of any “architecturally significant building” on public property which had been in place for 40 or more years.

“I voted against the conference report bill,” Jones said. “It would have locked down every school building project in the state – including Andalusia’s.”

Actually, he said, he had his seat-mate in the House vote him against the bill while he lobbied Gov. Ivey to offer an executive amendment to the bill before the legislature adjourned.

Jones said it is not unusual for well-meaning legislators to create unintended consequences with legislation.

“This one was important because some of the money involved in some projects had to be used by a certain time,” Jones said.

Ivey quickly agreed to the amendments, he said, adding that she said “Courage has to override.”

As the legislature reached the final hours of its 2017 regular session, both the House and Senate were essentially locked down by filibusters.

Gov. Ivey picked up the phone and asked the Democratic leaders in the Senate and House to not filibuster her amendments and let the bill through, he said.

“It was one of the last things we got done,” Jones said.

Both Jones and Sen. Jimmy Holley, who also represents Covington County, supported the bill in its final version.

“If we hadn’t, it would have been the biggest unintended consequence of the session.”

The new law requires an newly created state commission, called the Committee on Alabama Monument Preservation, to approve changes to monuments, and buildings that are 20 to 40 years old. Schools that are 20 years or older may apply to the commission to be renamed.

A government that renamed, altered or removed a monument or historic building without prior approval from the committee would be fined $25,000 for each violation.