AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill aimed at swapping out one of Maine’s two statues in the U.S. Congress’ National Statuary Hall was turned into a measure that would first study the idea.
In February, state Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon, offered legislation that would have seen Maine replace a statue of the state’s first governor, William King, with one of the state’s famed Civil War hero Gen. Joshua Chamberlain, also a governor.
Under Mason’s proposal, King’s statue would be returned to the State House Hall of Flags for the state’s bicentennial celebration in 2020. Likewise, a new statue of Chamberlain would be installed in Washington.
But on Tuesday, the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee amended Mason’s bill into a legislative resolve directing the Maine Arts Commission, Maine Historic Preservation Commission and the Maine State Museum Commission to study six key areas that any statue swap would entail and report back to the committee by January 2016.
Under the resolve approved unanimously by the committee, the commissions would determine how much public interest there is in replacing one or both of Maine’s statues in National Statuary Hall. Every state is allowed two statues in the hall. Besides King, Maine’s other statue is of Hannibal Hamlin, a Paris Hill native and vice president under Abraham Lincoln.
The resolve also directs the commissions to determine if the public is interested in returning the statue of William King to the State House and to determine how that would be done and what it would cost. The commissions would also attempt to determine if the King statue should be returned to Washington after the bicentennial.
They would also determine the feasibility of accomplishing all of the proposed tasks involved in swapping statues including costs, sources of outside funding and commissioning artists who would be able to produce a new statue.
Lawmakers also seem uncertain whether they agree the next statue to represent Maine in Washington should be Chamberlain or somebody else. At least one lawmaker Tuesday suggested that Maine should have gender equity with its statues in Washington and suggesting a likely candidate would be Margaret Chase Smith.
Smith was the first Maine woman to serve in the U.S. Senate and the first woman to serve in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.
The resolve now faces additional votes in the House and Senate in the weeks ahead.