BATISTE: A Committee With A Monumental Task

The Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs Committee faces a monumental task this week in the Louisiana House of Representatives. Three bills have been filed for this legislative session, two in the House of Representatives, one in the Senate. Senate President and Republican In Name Only John Alario steered the Senate Bill into the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, which might as well be known as committee chair Karen Carter Peterson’s death chamber – this was actually contrary to Senate rules, which dictate that legislation having to do with historical preservation belongs in the Senate Education Committee. But the Legislature vote is far from over.

The two house bills will be reviewed by the Municipal Affairs Committee. Last year, Thomas Carmody of Shreveport filed a bill to protect historic monuments based on the issue surrounding a memorial outside of the Caddo Parish Courthouse.  That legislation died in committee by a very narrow vote. The way it is discussed currently sounds like a slaughter, but the bill did not advance due to a tied vote, 7-7. Westwego’s Robert Billiot was in committee for the hearing, but he walked before the vote. Jerome “Dee” Richard of Thibodaux was absent for the vote.

The political breakdown splits evenly in the red state. The partisan breakdown is nine Democrats, eight Republicans, and one Independent from a conservative district. All eyes will be on Joseph Stagni from Kenner.

The bills this year are different, more patriotic and voter-based.  Carmody’s House Bill 71 is pro-military veteran legislation. It would protect monuments located on public property that commemorate U.S. wars, as well as prevent the renaming of streets, plaques, parks. House Bill 292 by Representative Phillip DeVillier is an amendment to the state constitution with similar protections, but it would put the decision in the hands of Louisiana voters. If the lawmakers  prefer to punt on this issue, DeVillier’s bill is the path.

The legislation prevents the “historic reckoning” that activists groups have called for. While the New Orleans monuments get the spotlight, efforts to remove historic monuments have popped up throughout the state.

The “South’s Defenders” monument in Calcasieu Parish went before the Lake Charles City Council in 2015. The National Action Network and Shreveport’s chapter of the NAACP have pushed for removal of “The Last Confederate Flag” in Shreveport since 2015. The groups “Why Alfred?” and Move the Mindset have attempted to remove the General Alfred Mouton monument in Lafayette since 2015. The Confederate veteran memorial in front of the Rapides Parish Courthouse in Alexandria came under fire by Louis A. Martinet Legal Society in 2016. Even the little city of Minden had the local chapter of the NAACP call to take down a Confederate memorial in Jacquelyn Park.

The extreme movement wants cultural genocide.  In practice, cultural genocide involves the eradication and destruction of cultural artifacts, such as books, artworks, and structures. It’s the suppression of cultural activities that do not conform to the destroyer’s notion of what is “appropriate.” The activists in different parts of Louisiana all similarly want to remove the evidence of a people from history.

Take Em Down expanded their list recently. After the Liberty Place monument—which ironically symbolized the end of Reconstruction and is now the mark of neo-Reconstruction—was heisted, Take Em Down tweeted “1 down! Approx. 138 to go!” The expanded list calls for renaming cities such as Belle Chasse, Destrehan, Lafitte, Mandeville, and Slidell, and Parishes such as Bieville, Iberville, Washington, Jeff Davis, and Beauregard.

If this was truly a “New Orleans issue” than shouldn’t the financial arm of the monument removal be local? It is being handled by the Foundation For LOUISIANA.  And the founder and president of the Foundation For Louisiana supports the removal of 138 more targets beyond Liberty Place.

Carmody’s bill sounds like a no-brainer. A pro-service member law should ease through the legislature. To oppose it is an act of anti-American, traitorous measures. A vote against HB 71 is an insult to the men and women who serve in the military. The Municipal, Parochial And Cultural Affairs Committee has a responsibility to support the bill and the armed forces.

Carmody’s legislation safeguards Louisiana history and protects memorials to war veterans from being hijacked by politicians trying to earn votes from a flavor of the month political movement.

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