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Greg Bluestein

A Confederate license plate’s deep roots in Georgia law

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Gov. Nathan Deal said it won’t take legislative action to redesign the Rebel emblem on specialty state-issued license plates that benefit the Sons of Confederate Veterans. But banning the group’s license plates entirely is more complicated than it seems.

Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain

That’s because the controversial car tag is deeply embedded in Georgia law. Legal code requiring a “special license plate for the Sons of Confederate Veterans,” with the revenue raised from the state fees going back to the group, has been in the books for more than a decade.

It was untouched by more than a dozen other revisions to the code section over the years that added new tags for groups such as injured first respondersbenefited Georgia Aquarium’s penguins, honored former state lawmakers, and, for some reason, paid homage to the Florida Gators.

That’s not the only mention of Confederate memorabilia in the state code. Georgia law also enshrines April as Confederate History and Heritage Month. And a 1963 law, last amended in 2000, has a very clear mandate for Stone Mountain’s state-owned memorial.

It reads: “The Stone Mountain Memorial Association shall continue the practice of stocking, restocking, and sales of Confederate memorabilia.”

Deal has already suggested he won’t ask lawmakers for more sweeping changes to the code to erase the license plate requirement.

“Sometimes, both legislative and governor’s interventions make things worse rather than better,” said Deal.

State Sen. Vincent Fort, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, said Wednesday he plans to introduce legislation that would ban the Confederate Heritage Month and also outlaw the state’s annual celebration of Confederate Memorial Day. Legal counsel, he said, has already begun drafting the proposal.

“It’s unconscionable to recognize and honor a movement that fought to maintain slavery,” he said.

Don’t be surprised to hear more calls from Democrats and other critics with election year looming.

 

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