Politics & Government

Haley: Fate of Confederate flag license plates up to lawmakers

S.C. lawmakers can decide what to do about a state specialty vehicle license plate that contains the Confederate flag next year, Gov. Nikki Haley’s office said Wednesday.

Haley wants the General Assembly to focus first on moving the controversial Civil War banner from the State House grounds.

The governor’s office did not say if Haley favors eliminating the Confederate flag from the S.C. license plate for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The governors of Virginia and North Carolina said Tuesday they plan to remove the flags on license plates for that group.

In South Carolina,the Legislature approves specialty vehicle license plates, which number more than 150. Lawmakers can remove the Confederate flag from the license plate if they want, a spokeswoman for Haley said.

“They are welcome to take that up next year if they so choose,” Haley press secretary Chaney Adams said. “But, right now, the governor is focused on healing the families and the state, and believes the Legislature should focus on removing the flag from the capitol grounds.”

The governor called Monday for state lawmakers to remove the flag, which flies on the north side of the State House, next to a memorial to Confederate soldiers. The S.C. House and state Senate agreed Tuesday to take up the issue.

Outside South Carolina the license plate issue has sparked this week.

South Carolina sells license plates for the Sons of Confederate Veterans for a $30 fee, due every two years. Part of that fee, $19.18, goes to the organizations, the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles said.

The Confederate tag is not among the top-selling specialty plates, said Beth Parks, a Motor Vehicles spokeswoman. It has not ranked in the top 50 specialty plates in recent years, she said.

South Carolina has 1,020 registered Sons of the Confederate Veterans license plates on the road, up 126 since 2004, Parks said.

Efforts to reach leaders of the S.C. division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans were unsuccessful Wednesday.

The group, which says the flag represents heritage, issued a statement condemning the slaying of nine parishioners at Emanuel AME Church last week. The accused shooter, Dylann Roof, was shown in photos with a Confederate flag and spouted racist comments.