Under the Dome

Democrats poised to offer plate plan

The license plates bearing the Confederate battle flag are listed as “out of stock” on the state Department of Motor Vehicles’ website.
The license plates bearing the Confederate battle flag are listed as “out of stock” on the state Department of Motor Vehicles’ website. N.C. DMV

When a bill dealing with specialty license plates hits the House floor for debate on Monday, two legislators plan to offer amendments aimed at the state’s Confederate battle flag editions.

It’s unclear how far they’ll get.

The plan from Rep. Kelly Alexander, a Mecklenburg County Democrat, is to add to a bill language that would end the plate outright.

Rep. Larry Hall, a Durham Democrat, said his amendment would establish a process at the Division of Motor Vehicles to review current and proposed plates for potentially offensive or threatening content.

The plate at issue, honoring Sons of Confederate Veterans and bearing a namesake flag, has gained a high profile in the renewed national movement against symbolism – most prominently Confederate flags and monuments – seen as tied to racism.

The two Democrats first intended to offer their amendments Thursday morning to a specialty license plate bill before the House Finance Committee.

But Chairman Rep. Bill Brawley, a Mecklenburg County Republican, said no amendments had been disclosed to him by the start of the meeting and he didn’t want to see the bill delayed. He said it included time-sensitive provisions, such as reauthorizing some expired specialty plates, and deserved to move without “political sabotage and games.”

The measure, Senate Bill 313, is scheduled to go before the House on Monday night.

Alexander said he believes Gov. Pat McCrory has the power to stop the issuance of Confederate battle flag plates, but McCrory – who says he supports the plate’s elimination – has repeatedly denied he has that authority.

An analysis from the School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill hasn’t cleared things up. The school’s Shea Denning took on the question of who is right and wrote “the answer is not obvious”

After outlining a series of issues within the plate debate, Denning concluded: “Taking a broad view of the matter ... one might conclude that the governor could act on his own to stop DMV from handing out Confederate plates.”

Ponzi relief?

A bill proposing insurance law amendments is advancing with a provision that would give tax deductions to investors who lose money in Ponzi schemes.

The legislature’s Fiscal Research Division says limited data make it difficult to determine what the proposed individual income tax itemized deduction would cost the state, but supporters say that’s immaterial.

“I don’t think, regardless of what it costs the state, we should ever compound a person’s problems if they’ve had their so-called financial adviser devastate them financially by the state gouging them for some more,” said Rep. Jeff Collins, a Nash County Republican, before the House Finance Committee signed off on the bill Thursday.

Unlike federal law, North Carolina doesn’t give victims of criminally fraudulent investment schemes any tax relief on income they ultimately never had, according to legislative staff. The state recognized the same itemized deductions as the federal Internal Revenue Code until 2014. The measure, in House Bill 287, comes from Rep. Dana Bumgardner, a Gaston County Republican.

If signed into law, it would be effective back to Jan. 1, 2014.

Last month, federal authorities announced a former Charlotte man, Claude Darrell McDougal, had been sentenced to 78 months in prison for leading a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of more than $2.5 million between 2006 and 2010. The court ordered him to pay $2 million in restitution to his victims.

Benjamin Brown of The Insider and J. Andrew Curliss

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