HB778: Monument and memorials; relocation.

HOUSE BILL NO. 778

Offered January 12, 2022
Prefiled January 11, 2022
A BILL to amend and reenact § 15.2-1812 of the Code of Virginia, relating to relocation of monuments and memorials.
Patrons-- Williams and Ware

Committee Referral Pending

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. That § 15.2-1812 of the Code of Virginia is amended and reenacted as follows:

§ 15.2-1812. Memorials for war veterans.

A. A locality may, within the geographical limits of the locality, authorize and permit the erection of monuments or memorials for the veterans of any war or conflict, or any engagement of such war or conflict, to include the following : Algonquin (1622), French and Indian (1754-1763), Revolutionary (1775-1783), War of 1812 (1812-1815), Mexican (1846-1848), Civil War (1861-1865), Spanish-American (1898), World War I (1917-1918), World War II (1941-1945), Korean (1950-1953), Vietnam (1965-1973), Operation Desert Shield-Desert Storm (1990-1991), Global War on Terrorism (2000- ), Operation Enduring Freedom (2001- ), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003- ). Notwithstanding any other provision of law, general or special, a locality may remove, relocate, contextualize, or cover any such monument or memorial on the locality's public property, not including a monument or memorial located in a publicly owned cemetery, regardless of when the monument or memorial was erected, after complying with the provisions of subsection B.

B. Prior to removing, relocating, contextualizing, or covering any such publicly owned monument or memorial, the local governing body shall publish notice of such intent in a newspaper having general circulation in the locality. The notice shall specify the time and place of a public hearing at which interested persons may present their views, not less than 30 days after publication of the notice. After the completion of the hearing, the governing body may vote whether to remove, relocate, contextualize, or cover the monument or memorial. If the governing body votes to remove, relocate, contextualize, or cover the monument or memorial, the local governing body shall first, for a period of 30 days, offer the monument or memorial for relocation and placement to any museum, historical society, government, or military battlefield. The local governing body shall have sole authority to determine the final disposition of the monument or memorial initiate a process to gift the monument or memorial to a nonprofit organization that is most related to the mission and spirit of the monument or memorial, at the locality's expense. The placement of the monument or memorial shall be decided by an independent committee, created by the locality, that must contain two members of the locality's governing body or the chief administrator of the locality, and three members of the general public. One public member shall be a resident of the locality, and the other two public members shall have expertise on war memorials in the Commonwealth. A majority vote by the committee as to the relocation of the memorial is binding on the locality and shall be carried out within six months from the date of the committee's decision.

C. A locality may, prior to initiating the provisions of subsection B, petition the judge of a circuit court having jurisdiction over the locality for an advisory referendum to be held on the question of the proposal to remove, relocate, contextualize, or cover any monument or memorial located on the locality's public property. Upon the receipt of such petition, the circuit court shall order an election to be held thereon at a time that is in conformity with § 24.2-682. The ballots shall be prepared, distributed, and voted, and the results of the election shall be ascertained and certified, in the manner prescribed by § 24.2-684.

D. The governing body may appropriate a sufficient sum of money out of its funds to complete or aid in the erection, removal, relocation, contextualizing, or covering of monuments or memorials to the veterans of such wars or conflicts, or any engagement of such wars or conflicts. The governing body may also make a special levy to raise the money necessary for the erection or completion of any such monuments or memorials, or to supplement the funds already raised or that may be raised by private persons, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, or other organizations. It may also appropriate, out of any funds of such locality, a sufficient sum of money to permanently care for, protect, and preserve such monuments or memorials and may expend the same thereafter as other funds are expended.