By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
A northern Alabama Republican lawmaker said he plans to bring legislation next year to make adjustments to the state’s monuments protection act.
Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, told Alabama Daily News that he has never liked the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act passed in 2017 because it minimizes local control.
“The Republican Party has traditionally been about governing from the bottom up rather than the top down and that bill was the state creating a bureaucracy for decisions that were made by local officials,” Ball said. “If a local official puts it up they ought to take it down.”
Ball was one of the few Republicans at the time who voted against the 2017 bill that was in response to Confederate monuments being taken down across the U.S.
Ball said his legislation would be similar to what was proposed to the House Judiciary Committee earlier this year from Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, but not exactly the same.
Her bill, which was voted down by the committee, would have allowed cities and counties to remove monuments up to 50 years old. Any monument older would go through a waiver process that would allow a state committee to make the decision on removing or relocating it.
Ball said his bill will have local officials work with the Department of Archives to determine the future of the monument that a community would like removed. He said he wants to preserve history but also allow more local control into the situation.
“It puts some common sense in it,” Ball said.
The lawmakers supporting the original preservation act have said it is about preserving history.
“How can we tell a complete story if we start removing history,” Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, told reporters after he attempted to pass a bill last year that would have increased the act’s fines. That bill never received a vote in the Senate.
The 2017 act prohibits relocating, removing, altering or renaming public buildings, streets and memorials that have been standing for more than 40 years. Breaking the law can lead to a one-time $25,000 fine, which some cities and counties have opted to do within the last two years.
Ball says he knows it is very unlikely that the Republican-controlled legislature would ever pass his bill, especially during an election year, but says that also points to the problem with the origins of the bill.
“It is bad policy that was grown out of an overreaction from politics at the time and what it’s done is made anything that’s over 40 years old sacrosanct,” Ball said.
Next year will be Ball’s last as a member of the House of Representatives as he is not running for reelection.