Tennessee Heritage Protection Act

Tennessee Historical Commission

The mission of the Tennessee Historical Commission is to protect, preserve, interpret, maintain, and administer historic places, and to encourage the inclusive diverse study of Tennessee's history for the benefit of future generations. 

The Tennessee Historical Commission consists of twenty-nine members. Twenty-four members are appointed by the Governor. The twenty-four members appointed by the Governor are equally divided among the three grand divisions of the state. There are five ex officio members: the Governor, the State Historian, the State Archaeologist, the Commissioner of Environment and Conservation, and the State Librarian and Archivist. The Tennessee Historical Commission typically meets each February, June, and October and has purview over policies of the state programs of the agency and approves the budget. The members of the Tennessee Historical Commission are responsible for considering and voting on petitions for a waiver to the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act.

The Tennessee Historical Commission is supported by a professional full-time staff that is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the State Historic Preservation Office and other state and federal programs. The staff cannot vote on petitions for a waiver to the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act.

More information about the Tennessee Historical Commission and its state and federal programs is located at https://tn.gov/environment/section/thc-tennessee-historical-commission.

 

Tennessee Heritage Protection Act

The Tennessee Heritage Protection Act was passed in 2013 and amended in 2016. Generally, the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act prohibits the removal, relocation, or renaming of a memorial that is, or is located on, public property.

A public entity exercising control of a memorial may petition the Tennessee Historical Commission in writing for a waiver from the prohibition.
After consideration of the petition, the Tennessee Historical Commission will vote on whether to grant or deny the waiver.
The citation for the Act is Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-1-412.

The Act can be found at http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/tncode/ and also at the State Library and Archives or a law library open to the public (for instance the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; the University of Memphis; or Vanderbilt University). Public libraries may also be able to provide copies.

The Tennessee Historical Commission does not have jurisdiction over a petition to remove, relocate, or rename a memorial that is submitted by an individual or entity that does not exercise control of the memorial.

The Tennessee Historical Commission cannot take actions not authorized by the Act to cause the removal, relocation, or renaming of a memorial.

 

Rulemaking and Petitions

The Tennessee Historical Commission held a public hearing on June 13, 2017, regarding rules establishing criteria for consideration of petitions. The archived notice of rulemaking can be found at http://publications.tnsosfiles.com/rules_filings/04-08-17.pdf.

The Tennessee Historical Commission anticipates discussion and voting on the rules at its next meeting in October in Athens, Tennessee. Information concerning the hearing is available at https://tn.gov/environment/article/board-tennessee-historical-commission.

Once the Commission votes to adopt the rules, the rules will be reviewed by the Office of the Attorney General and Reporter and then filed with the Secretary of State. The rules will take effect ninety days after they are filed with the Secretary of State unless the Commission withdraws the rules or the ninety-day period is stayed by the Commission or the Government Operations Committees of the General Assembly. During the ninety-day period, the rules will be reviewed by the Government Operations Committees of the General Assembly. Notices and agendas can be found at http://www.capitol.tn.gov/.

Two petitions have been filed with the Tennessee Historical Commission:

  • The City of Memphis has petitioned for the removal of a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest.
  • Middle Tennessee State University has petitioned to rename Forrest Hall, a building that houses the ROTC program.

The rules ultimately enacted will apply to applications for waivers submitted under both the 2013 and 2016 versions of the Heritage Protection Act.

The City of Memphis request to move the Forrest Statue from Health Sciences Park was submitted under the 2013  act, prior to the passage of the 2016 Act.    Thus it will be considered under the provisions of the 2013 act, and is the only waiver application before the Commission to be considered under the 2013 Act.

A majority vote of the THC is necessary to approve a waiver request submitted under the2013 Act.  A 2/3 vote of the THC is required under the 2016 Act.