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Fight Over Alamo Continues in the Capitol

The dust-up over who should be the steward of the Alamo continued into today's House Culture, Recreation & Tourism Committee, where three bills addressing the historic site were heard.

Patti Atkins, president of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, testifies before the House Committee on Culture, Recreation & Tourism about the Alamo shrine on April 6, 2011.

The fight over who should be the steward of the Alamo continued on Wednesday, as lawmakers in a House committee considered three bills dealing with the historic site.

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT) have looked after the state’s most iconic site since 1905, but they have recently run afoul of the Texas attorney general's office, which has begun investigating allegations of mismanagement. 

The Daughters are disputing the claims, but now lawmakers have stepped in, with two bills that would both transfer oversight of the Alamo to the Texas Historical Commission and allow admission to be charged there. A third bill would leave the DRT as the steward but create annual reporting requirements for the organization.

Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, authored the bills and said that Texas has been blessed to have the Daughters as the stewards of the site for so long. “These bills merely seek to clarify the relationship between the state and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas,” Guillen said. He said the provisions in the bills would provide the oversight and financial transparency to meet the concerns raised by the AG’s office and in the media.

The two bills that would remove the Daughters as stewards would instead make the Texas Historical Commission — facing its own extensive budget cuts — the custodian of the Alamo. The state agency could then contract with a nonprofit corporation to manage the site if it wanted. That nonprofit could be the DRT, but would not have to be. Those two bills would also allow the caretaker, whether a nonprofit or the DRT, to charge admission to the Alamo.

Members of the DRT testified against those two bills, pointing to the organization's successful stewardship of the site for more than 100 years, the many educational programs run by the organization and the countless hours members have volunteered over the years. 

Patti Atkins, president of the DRT, told lawmakers that placing the Alamo under the care of a state agency is neither what is best for the site nor what most Texans would prefer.

“We feel like the best interest of the state, of course, is for the Alamo not to be a line item in the budget,” Atkins said.

Instead, Atkins and the DRT support HB 3726, which would require the organization to turn in an annual financial and transparency report, which would be sent to the comptroller, the governor and the Historical Commission. Atkins also supports amending the bill to create an advisory board for the Alamo made up of state, county and city officials as well as DRT members.

Sarah Reveley, a former member of the DRT, said she was the one who complained to the AG about potential mismanagement. Reveley told lawmakers she doesn't think the DRT should have any relationship with the Alamo, not even if a rigid set of rules were in place for the organization to follow. “Based on their past performance, I find this impossible for them to do,” she said. 

But Karen Thompson, a longtime member of the DRT, told lawmakers that the organization should stay involved, and that it welcomes oversight and will do its best to follow whatever guidelines the state comes up with. “The Daughters are open to change and oversight, to bringing in people that will provide what is best for the Alamo. That is what our concern is and has been for 106 years,” she said. 

The bills were left pending in committee.

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