Georgia governor expects lawmakers to plunge into Civil War debate next year

Gov. Nathan Deal. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said he’s leaving it up to lawmakers next year to decide how to handle the growing debate about the more than 100 Civil War monuments scattered across the state.

While the Republican has already ruled out changes to Stone Mountain, the towering paean to the Confederate war dead, he said he’s going to “wait and see what the Legislature decides” on how to handle monuments, memorials and street signs.

“I think they will do a pretty in depth look into whether or not we should continue to restrict local jurisdictions – counties and cities – in terms of what they may want to consider in their areas,” he told our AJC colleague Rhonda Cook. “It’s an issue I’m sure is going to be before the General Assembly in January.”

He’s referring to a compromise struck during the debate to remove the Rebel emblem from the Georgia flag that makes it illegal for anyone to “deface, defile, abuse contemptuously, relocate, remove, conceal or obscure” any Confederate memorial without authority.

It’s the law that would thwart the call by state Rep. Stacey Abrams, a Democratic candidate for governor, to sandblast the carving of Confederate leaders from Stone Mountain. It’s also the statute that would have to be changed if communities were allowed to determine what monuments remain on their ground, as state Rep. Stacey Evans, another Democratic candidate for governor, has advocated.

Deal wouldn’t say where he stood on the debate.

“There are many facets of it,” said the governor. “The one that’s got the most attention lately has been the prohibition on local governments being able to make independent decisions about monuments and flags within their jurisdictions. I think they will give it a serious look.”

More: Deal to consider appointing black members to white Stone Mountain board

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