State lawmakers will have another lobbyist bending their ears during next year’s legislative session.
The Georgia chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans has hired a yet-unnamed lobbying firm to represent them in their fight to preserve Confederate monuments.
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Scott Gilbert leads the chapter. If state lawmakers take up the issue of Confederate memorials this year, he wants his group to be ready.
“We’d rather be safe than sorry. If nothing happens this year, we’ll be very happy, and if something happens, we will be prepared,” he said.
Gilbert has been a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans for 27 years and says he’s never heard of the organization sending a lobbyist to the Gold Dome.
But this year, the group is preparing for a renewed fight over Confederate monuments — specifically, the Georgia law that prevents them from being removed or altered.
A group of state lawmakers plans to announce legislation Tuesday that would allow local governments to make decisions on Confederate memorials.
And both DeKalb County and the city of Kennesaw have already asked for more local control in the matter.
“It’s not surprising that people on either side of this issue would organize and then actually hire and delegate authority to people to speak on their behalf to articulate their case,” said Andra Gillespie, a political scientist at Emory University.
She says the Confederate group’s enlistment of professional lobbying help signals the amount of local interest in the monument issue.
Gillespie says that interest has intensified over the past year as cities like New Orleans decided to remove a number of memorials to Confederate leaders.
But after next year’s session closes, each and every member of the Georgia House and Senate will be running to keep their seat.
That could make the Confederate monument issue too hot to touch.
“The thing is: 2018 is an election year,” said Kerwin Swint, a political scientist at Kennesaw State University. “I don’t think there are going to be a lot of legislators who want to wade deep into this issue and take a stand.”