'Heritage Act' cited by Bobby Jindal admin to defend Confederate statues apparently doesn't exist

The hope that Gov. Bobby Jindal might invoke a state “Heritage Act” to keep the four controversial public monuments in New Orleans in place may be a lost cause. Though Jindal’s administration pledged Thursday to research the law and its possible applicability to the statue controversy, it turns out Louisiana doesn’t have such a law.

The Jindal administration’s vow came after New Orleans’ Historic District Landmarks Commission cleared the way for the City Council to take down prominent statues of Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis and a less public monument commemorating an attack launched by the White League against the Reconstruction-era government in the city.

The ongoing debate over those monuments has sparked debate in the city — and around the state — with many suggesting there was a state law known as the “Heritage Act” that the governor could use to step in. When asked Thursday night whether the governor planned to intervene, spokesman Doug Cain replied that “Governor Jindal opposes the tearing down of these historical statues and he has instructed his staff to look into the Heritage Act to determine the legal authority he has as Governor to stop it.”

Nothing of that name shows up in a review of state laws, though a South Carolina law with that name, passed in 2000, kept the Confederate flag flying over that state’s Capitol grounds until recently. The South Carolina law requires a two-thirds vote of each house of the Legislature to change “any monument, marker, memorial, school, or street erected or named in honor of the Confederacy or the civil rights movement located on any municipal, county, or state property.”

Jindal’s office walked back its remarks Friday, with officials saying the administration was looking into what authority it has to stop the monuments from being taken down.

That power, however, might be limited.

The Lieutenant Governor’s Office, which oversees historic preservation in the state, is unaware of any laws that would allow state government to interfere with decisions Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the City Council make about monuments on property that the city owns, said Jacques Berry, spokesman for the office.

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.

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