Politics & Government

Effort to halt flag plates heads to House committee

North Carolina’s Sons of Confederate Veterans license plate
North Carolina’s Sons of Confederate Veterans license plate NCDMV

While House Democrats had hoped to wipe the Confederate battle flag off North Carolina license plates this week, but they’ll have to wait longer now. Democrats were readying amendments for an unrelated plate bill that was headed to a vote on Monday – but the bill has now been sent to the House rules committee.

The plan is to combine a number of license plate bills into one major bill that deals with all the plate issues, said Rep. David Lewis, chairman of the rules committee.

Rep. Larry Hall, a Durham Democrat, had drafted an amendment that would establish a review process for potentially offense license plates. Rep. Kelly Alexander, a Mecklenburg County Democrat, drafted another that would stop production of license plates with the Confederate emblem.

The two Democrats had intended to run their amendments in the House Finance Committee last week, but Hall said Chairman Rep. Bill Brawley, a Mecklenburg Republican, wouldn’t allow them because the amendments were not submitted 24 hours in advance. Hall claims notice of the meeting wasn’t given 24 hours before it started.

However, Brawley told The Insider he didn’t see the amendments by the start of the meeting and he didn’t want the bill delayed. He said it included time-sensitive provisions and needed to move without “political sabotage and games.”

They then expected to try on the floor this week, until the bills were sent to committee.

Hall said he would now introduce his amendment in the rules committee. Lewis said he is aware of Hall’s plan.

Hall’s amendment would provide a design approval process to screen for potentially offensive symbols. He said it’s written in a way that complies with a recent Supreme Court decision in Texas that decided the state didn’t violate the First Amendment by not allowing specialty license plates with Confederate Battle flag.

“We looked to see what Texas did so we would be safe in any court challenge,” Hall said.

Hall’s drafted amendment states: “In order to exercise more control over the designs included on these special registration plates, an application for the establishment of a special registration plate [...] must include the proposed design for the plate and may be rejected by the [DMV] if the design might be offensive to any member of the public, or if the use of the funds derived from the sale of the plate might violate a statute or constitutional provision.”

In addition, the amendment says that “the DMV may review any active special license plates and may cancel any if the design might be offensive to any member of the public.”

“The amendment is fair, respectful of procedure and palatable to everyone,” Hall said.

Hall said DMV would decide what is offensive on a case by case basis.

Alexander’s amendment would go further – and order DMV to review active plate designs and cancel any that contain the confederate emblem.

Gov. Pat McCrory called on lawmakers to pass a law that stops future issuance of the specialty plate issued to members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, considered a civic club under the law that grants plates to various groups. Senate leader Phil Berger has said McCrory should act on his own.

Knopf: 919-829-8955

Twitter: @tayknopf

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