Under the Dome

McCrory says he would remove Confederate battle flag from future plates – if he could

Gov. Pat McCrory said Wednesday he does not believe his administration has the authority to stop the production of state license plates that display the Confederate battle flag, but it’s something he wants in the wake of a fast-paced battle flag purge underway across the South.

McCrory told reporters Wednesday he would act if he could.

“It’s my understanding that there is a clear statute that does not give me that authority,” McCrory said. “I was actually wanting to have that executive authority, but we understand clearly that the statute was written which would need to be clarified by the legislature. You know me, if I could do it, I would do it.”

McCrory is asking North Carolina’s legislature to halt the flag’s display on plates, now part of a Sons of Confederate Veterans specialty plate program.

Phil Berger, the Republican leader of the state Senate, has said the issue can be resolved in the executive branch.

“There is some level of executive administrative discretion involved in the issuance of those plates and what goes on those plates,” Berger said Wednesday.

The governor’s spokesman, Josh Ellis, pointed to a court opinion, which says: “Whether the display of the Confederate flag on state-issued license plates represents sound public policy is not an issue presented to this Court in this case. That is an issue for our General Assembly.”

The Sons of Confederate Veterans is a “civic club” recognized under a state law that allows a club’s name or logo on the special plate.

The law says the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles shall issue special plates to a list of dozens of approved groups or causes, including turtle rescue team members, SCUBA divers, state parks supporters and more.

One such plate is for members of a “civic club.” The law says a civic club plate shall go to a “a member of a nationally recognized civic organization whose member clubs in the State are exempt from state corporate income tax... Examples of these clubs include Jaycees, Kiwanis, Optimist, Rotary, Ruritan, and Shrine.”

The state rejected the Sons of Confederate Veterans as a civic club in the 1990s. The group filed a lawsuit that led to court rulings in the club’s favor. The special registration plates, showing the battle flag, were issued.

While McCrory is calling to stop future production of the license plates displaying the confederate battle flag, there are already more than 2,000 active plates with the logo. McCrory said he would not address those.

“I’m not going to instruct people to start pulling people over and taking them off,” he said.

McCrory on flag at Capitol

Gov. Pat McCrory said Wednesday he supports flying the Confederate national flag above the Capitol, as it does now twice a year. He said he believes it is appropriate to commemorate the nation’s history.

“The national flag is not the flag that has been used in such an offensive way in our nation or in our state,” he said. “I think there is a clear distinction between the two. We still have to preserve the history of our country and our state. We are walking a fine line by preserving our history, but also recognizing that the display on a license plate of the Confederate battle flag draws comparisons to issues that I don’t think are productive to our country or our state.”