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Dennis Bonnen, presumptive next Texas House speaker, backs removal of Confederate plaque

After Gov. Greg Abbott announced a Jan. 11 gathering of the State Preservation Board, which oversees the Capitol grounds, the likely next Texas House speaker applauded a "meeting to begin the process of removing” the controversial plaque.

The "Children of the Confederacy Creed" plaque has drawn controversy for its denial that preserving slavery was an underly...

After a yearlong push to remove a controversial "Children of the Confederacy Creed" plaque from inside the Texas Capitol, momentum appears to be picking up steam.

On Monday Gov. Greg Abbott announced a Jan. 11 meeting of the State Preservation Board that oversees the Capitol grounds and the likely next Texas House speaker said he supports removing the plaque, The Dallas Morning News first reported. The plaque, which was erected in 1959, asserts that the Civil War was “not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery."

Republican state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, who is expected to lead the lower chamber next year, applauded Abbott's efforts and voiced his support for removing the plaque.

"I commend the Governor for calling this meeting to begin the process of removing the confederate plaque from the halls of the State Capitol," the Angleton lawmaker said in a statement to The Texas Tribune. "It is historically inaccurate, and I stand by those who have called for its removal."

Abbott called the meeting in a letter, which did not specify an agenda, to Preservation Board Executive Director Rod Welsh. But a spokesperson for the board told the Tribune this will be the Abbott-led board’s first meeting since March 2017, and word of it comes nearly two weeks after Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion saying the Legislature or the panel have the power to unilaterally remove the plaque.

The meeting will fall three days after the start of next year's legislative session, when Bonnen is expected to take over the speakership. Both the Texas House speaker and the lieutenant governor serve as co-vice chairs on the preservation board under Abbott.

The push to remove the plaque began last year after state Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, wrote a letter to the Preservation Board asking for the removal of Confederate iconography from the state Capitol. He previously said that the Confederacy plaque, which is located outside of his Capitol office, “is not historically accurate in the slightest, to which any legitimate, peer-reviewed Civil War historian will attest.”

Johnson told the Tribune late Monday he was glad to have Bonnen's support.

"He rarely minces words and he rarely hesitates to act, and so I’m glad he agrees that the plaque should come down, which I am confident it will," Johnson said.

In September 2017, outgoing House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, also chimed in on the debate, writing a separate letter to the Preservation Board last month asking that the same plaque be removed. He recently said that he didn’t think the decision to remove the plaque should be delayed until the Legislature convenes next month.

“I remain ready to remove the blatantly inaccurate Children of the Confederacy plaque,” he said. “There’s no need to delay this.”

Disclosure: The State Preservation Board has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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