The power to remove Virginia’s controversial Confederate monuments has been denied to localities under the Dillon Rule, which allows the state to limit the powers of local governments. But a new Democratic majority in the state legislature may open the door to Confederate monuments coming down, according to a report last week by the Capital News Service’s McKenzie Lambert and Susan Shibut.
Virginia has 110 Confederate monuments, many of which are housed in Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy, they report. In recent years, residents have been pushing for many monuments and street names to come down. But the power to remove the monuments has been denied to localities under the Dillon Rule, which allows the state to limit the powers of local governments. However, a new Democratic majority in Virginia’s state legislature may open the door to more local government control, and perhaps the removal of the monuments. The Dillon Rule is derived from the 1868 written decision by Judge John Dillon of Iowa. Dillon identified local governments as political subdivisions of the state government. Today, 39 states apply the Dillon Rule to some capacity, 31 apply it to all localities, while eight use the rule for only certain municipalities. The Virginia Supreme Court adopted the Dillon Rule in 1896. The Dillon Rule has prevented localities from passing measures to remove their Confederate monuments.
When the General Assembly resumes session in January, a Democratic majority may make it easier for legislators to make a new law stating that local governments have the power to remove Confederate monuments, or a law that bans them outright. John Aughenbaugh, assistant professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University, said a new law is a way he could see localities gain the power to make their own decisions about the monuments.