BATON ROUGE – Members of the Legislative Black Caucus on Tuesday gathered in the rotunda of the state capitol to express their displeasure with the passage of House Bill 71 – the so-called “monuments bill” -- a day earlier, leading all 24 members of the caucus to walk out of the chamber.
The bill, if signed into law, would forbid the removal, renaming or alteration of any military monument in the state -- including Confederate monuments – unless a majority of voters in a city or parish approve them.
The bill passed the House largely along party lines: 65-31.
State Rep. Joe Bouie, D-New Orleans, said the bill passing sent a message to him and his fellow caucus members.
“What the passage of HB 71 really revealed is that there is a deep-rooted belief in white supremacy and a desire to revere those who fought against the United States of America in the American Civil War,” Bouie said.
State Rep. Raymond Garafolo, R-Chalmette, voted in favor of the bill and said he did so to allow “the people to have a say-so in what’s happening in their city.”
The bill will move to the Senate for additional debate and is expected to be taken up by the Governmental Affairs Committee as early as next week. The committee is chaired by State Sen. Karen Carter-Peterson, D-New Orleans.
As a black woman, Carter-Peterson said the bill is personal to her.
“I would be a slave today if the other side had won,” she said. “So it’s personal to me. It’s personal to every member of this caucus.”
Former U.S. Senate candidate Rob Maness said the bill is about protecting military veteran monuments. “That’s it,” he said.
While Gov. John Bel Edwards didn’t say he would veto the bill if it reaches his desk, he did call the legislation problematic.
“This is a very difficult issue for a lot of people,” he said. “I understand that the passion runs high. While it’s certainly part of our history, can we say it’s the best part?”
If the bill makes it through the legislative process, it is not retroactive, so there is little chance it would have any bearing on the Confederate monuments in New Orleans.