Georgia halts sales of Confederate license tags

Gov. Nathan Deal's pledge to "redesign" a state-sponsored license plate featuring the Confederate flag emblem has also led to a halt in sales of the tags.

Several readers contacted us Wednesday saying they could not order the controversial plates on the Department of Revenue's website, which no longer features the Sons of Confederate Veterans license plate in its list of more than 100 specialty tags.

State officials later confirmed that the sales were halted. Nick Genesi, a spokesman for the Department of Revenue, said state law gives the agency the final authority over the plate's design. 

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blog Online sales of Confederate memorabilia have surged since major retailers pulled merchandise featuring the Rebel emblem. Halting the sales during the redesign may be an effort to prevent a similar uptick in Georgia.

What is clear is that, absent legislative intervention, the tags will be back in some form. State law for more than a decade has required a “special license plate for the Sons of Confederate Veterans," with the proceeds of the sales going to benefit the group.

At 4 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday, the radio arm of Georgia Public Broadcasting will air Bill Nigut's "Two Way Street," which will feature an hourlong interview with former Gov. Roy Barnes. In that session, Barnes will explain why he thinks the Confederate license plate should go away.

But Barnes also admits that he shares responsibility for the tag's existence: “I think I even voted for that bill, because it was part of a compromise we were trying to do that same year – or I signed it.” 

When he was governor, that is.

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If today or Monday the U.S. Supreme Court should rule on state bans against gay marriage, take note of its immediate reach. Depending on the wording of the ruling, it could only apply to Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee -- the states whose cases advanced to the high court. We're told there may be a need for the Northern Judicial District to formally apply the SCOTUS decision to Georgia, which could mean a short delay.

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Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush will be in Atlanta on Monday for a private fundraiser, according to the invitation we're looking at. A ticket for the evening reception is $2,700 a head. But those who raise $27,000 will get a photo op with the former Florida governor, and an invitation to a July retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine.

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In Jeff Davis' homeland, the Mississippi state flag won't be coming down any time soon. From the Associated Press:

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant says he will not call Mississippi lawmakers back to the Capitol to consider removing a Confederate battle emblem from the state flag.

Bryant said Thursday that he calls special sessions only for legislators to respond to a natural disaster or to handle a large economic development project.

The head of the Legislative Black Caucus, Democratic Sen. Kenny Wayne Jones, had called on Bryant earlier Thursday to set a special session to bring "true dialogue and full resolution" on redesigning a flag that many see as racially divisive.

Mississippi has had the Confederate symbol on its banner since 1894, and voters chose to keep it in 2001.

Our AJC colleague Shannon McCaffrey went to Jackson this week to take a look at the last Confederate battle flag standing. Her piece is worth a read:

Mississippi may be known as the Hospitality State but it has long adopted a certain defiance. It resisted integration and the civil rights movement well after many other Southern states had accepted the inevitability of equal rights. It was the last state to abolish slavery by ratifying the 13th Amendment and also the last to repeal Prohibition. Mississippi was among the last SEC schools to integrate its football teams.

Still, state Sen. Hillman Frazier, said Mississippi and South Carolina “are joined at the hip.”

“They were the first to secede from the Union and we followed. We were both among the last to ratify the 13th Amendment,” Frazier said. “So, when they say ‘enough’ I think this state will listen.”

“Do we really want to be all alone on this, of all things?”

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A flock of congressmen and senators will head to Charleston today for the funeral of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator. Pinckney was pastor of Emanuel AME Church, where he and eight others were shot and killed by the young man who intended to start a race war.

President Barack Obama will offer the eulogy.  Atlanta Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis is expected to be among the mourners. Georgia Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue plans to be there as well. Said Perdue, via a spokeswoman:

“Today, I stand with the people of Charleston as we pray for the families who lost their loved ones in this unthinkable tragedy. We’ve seen the Charleston community and the entire state come together to heal and move forward. In the face of such adversity, the leaders of South Carolina and my Senate colleagues Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham have inspired us all to focus on what unites us and not what divides us. Today, we are united in our compassion for the victims’ families and will always be united as Americans.”

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Thursday's Supreme Court ruling in King v. Burwell scuttled the (messy) Republican plans to come up with a subsidy fix for millions of Americans.

But Rep. Tom Price, R-Roswell, says it opens the door for (finally) a vote on a replacement plan for Obamacare, such as the one he wrote. As Price told National Public Radio, when asked why Republicans have not agreed on a replacement:

"Most recently, it’s been the distraction of this Supreme Court case, actually. Folks have been wanting to see what the Court was going to say before they made a decision about how to move forward. In this instance, the Court deciding in favor of the government, in favor of Burwell, means that our efforts then can be redirected to those patient-centered, positive solutions that are so necessary in our health care arena."

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Several Republican House members from Forsyth County on Wednesday endorsed Sheri Gilligan in the July 14 runoff for House District 24, a seat vacated by Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming.

State Reps. Mike Dudgeon, Geoff Duncan, and Wes Cantrell issued a joint statement that included a shot at her rival, David Van Sant:

Sheri Gilligan came within three votes of winning a four-way race without a runoff, which is a remarkable feat in a primary race. This shows her strong support with the voters….

David Van Sant has campaigned on conservative principles. However, he has a multi-year record of donating money to various Democratic candidates and a recent record of voting in a Democratic primary….

Van Sant, who has been endorsed by radio provocateur Erick Erickson, has this explanation on his website:

David had grown weary of the Republican Party continuing to prop-up weak, unprincipled candidates on the ballot that are not true conservatives. In 2012, a year that Georgia was clearly going to be won by Republicans, David pulled a Democrat ballot to protest the lack of principled conservatives. On that ballot David voted in the non-partisan judicial races and also against the T-SPLOST (tax increase). He submitted the ballot with NO Democrat selected.

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A fascinating take from our AJC colleague James Salzer:

The percentage of restaurants and bars allowing smoking has nearly doubled since Georgia approved a law a decade ago aimed at limiting smoking in public places.

Much of the smoking is being done in outside areas, such as patios, where children are often exposed to second-hand smoke.cigarettes

That’s the findings of a new Georgia State University School of Public Health study that looked at what’s happened since lawmakers approved the state’s “smoke free” law in 2005.

The law prohibits smoking inside most public places and sets guidelines for allowing it in and around places like bars and restaurants. The aim was, in part, to limit exposure to second-hand smoke. States and countries across the globe have passed laws limiting smoking in public places over the past few decades.

Here's the full story.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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