RICHMOND, Va. – Governor Ralph Northam proposed three bills Thursday morning, including giving Virginia localities control over Confederate monuments and removing the Robert E Lee statue at the US Capitol.
Northam says the legislation is part of an effort to advance historic justice, a movement dedicated to telling an inclusive history that accurately reflects the experiences of all people and communities.
“When we have a complete understanding of how we got to the present, we are better prepared to improve our shared future,” said Northam. “These proposals will help us to tell the story of people and places that for too long have been neglected or marginalized and continue to build a modern, diverse, and inclusive Commonwealth.”
If passed by the General Assembly, the proposal would “authorize Virginia localities to have local control over monuments and remove the existing statewide prohibition against removing Confederate War memorials.”
His announcement comes days after Richmond City Council approved a resolution to ask the General Assembly for authority over Confederate monuments in the city.
In another bill, Northam proposed a replacement of Robert E. Lee Statue in U.S. Capitol.
“The statue of Robert E. Lee in our nation’s capital is very offensive to a lot of people, so we want to have a statue there that’s more representative of Virginia and more inclusive of Virginia,” said Northam.
The bill would “authorize the Commission for Historical Statues in the United States Capitol to provide for the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the United States Capitol and to recommend to the General Assembly as a replacement a statue of a prominent Virginia citizen.”
Northam also proposed a bill to authorize the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to create a Historic African American Cemetery Grant Program and to give them authority to add cemeteries to the list of those that receive annual maintenance funds of $5 per grave.
In addition to the legislation, Northam also proposed several budget-related priorities. One of those priorities includes the Historic African American Cemeteries Fund, which would provide 100,000 the first year and $150,000 the second, to support the preservation and care of historical African American graces and cemeteries.
Northam also addressed where he is now, compared to 11 months ago when a blackface scandal that rocked his administration.
“Well, obviously, February was a tough time for Virginia, and I appreciate Virginians for sticking with me,” said Northam. “I have listened to a lot of Virginians, I have learned a lot, and I think we’ve taken some great measures to address equity, diversity, and inclusivity in the Commonwealth.”