Tennessee Legislature OKs bill tightening monument loophole

FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2017, file photo, a statue of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest sits in a park in Memphis, Tenn. The Republican-dominated House in Tennessee has voted to punish the city of Memphis for removing Confederate monuments by taking $250,000 away from the city that would have been used for planning a bicentennial celebration in 2019. (AP Photo/Adrian Sainz, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In a parting shot to Memphis or any other city that would use a legal loophole to remove Confederate statues, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill that makes it harder to get around the law.

On Wednesday, the last day of the legislative session, state lawmakers approved a measure that would bar cities from selling or transferring property that has historic memorials without permission from the Tennessee Historical Society — or a court.

The Tennessee Heritage Protection Act limits the removal or changing of historical memorials on public property. In December, leaders in the majority-black city used a legal loophole by selling the city parks to a nonprofit, which swiftly removed the monuments of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.

The House took $250,000 from the budget that was to go to Memphis for its bicentennial celebration last year. Lawmakers from Memphis were outraged, calling the move racist and vile.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the celebration of the city’s 200th anniversary would still go as planned.

Cities around the U.S. have sought to bring down Confederate monuments following the racially motivated massacre of nine people at a black church in South Carolina and a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Some proponents of keeping such monuments have said they are part of history and a reminder of Southern heritage.