Proposed bill could grant state eminent domain over Confederate statues

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A new bill proposed in the Tennessee General Assembly could possibly grant the state eminent domain to recover the Confederate monuments.

Both the Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest statues were taken down in December, but now two months later the proposed Historic Properties Act could grant the state's Historical Commission Power of Eminent Domain to recover historical properties.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Frank Niceley and Rep. Matthew Hill, both lawmakers from East Tennessee.

According to the bill, the Properties Act could be applied "retroactively" and would apply to property owned by the state or city at any time after 2013.

The bill has people talking, but it doesn't have the support of one West Tennessee lawmaker.

"Oh, hell no I wouldn't support that bill," said State Rep. Antonio Parkinson, when asked if he would support the measure.

Parkinson said this is the first time he has heard of a proposed bill being applied retroactively. He also said it's common for bills to change during the legislative process.

"I'm sure people are going to be asking for an AG's opinion on it. I'm sure that it's going to be challenging in court," Parkinson said.

Both Confederate monuments are owned by the non-profit Memphis Greenspace.

Executive Director Van Turner sent a statement on the proposed legislation.

"When we chose to purchase Health Sciences and Memphis Parks, we knew there would be challenges along the way, including legal ones. Memphis Greenspace is committed to our mission to activate and ensure the public safety of our parks, and we appreciate the continued community support of our effort."

WMC reached out to the City of Memphis for comment on the measure and was given this statement by Chief Communications Officer Ursula Madden.

"We're aware of the proposed legislation but we don't have any comment at this time."

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