North Carolina doesn’t have a Confederate battle flag flying over its state capitol, but it does have a specialty license plate featuring that  flag, issued by the state on behalf of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

It’s just one of many vanity plates offered by the Department of Motor Vehicles “allowing citizens with common interests to promote themselves and/or their causes.”

Virginia has a similar plate, and today — with a nod to the horrific shootings of nine black churchgoers at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. and the ensuing actions of South Carolina’s Gov. Nikki Haley in ordering the removal of the Confederate flag from the state’s Capitol grounds — the governor of Virginia ordered that flag removed from state license plates.

“Although the battle flag is not flown here on Capitol Square, it has been the subject of considerable controversy, and it divides many of our people,” Governor Terry McAuliffe said. “Even its display on state-issued license tags is, in my view, unnecessarily divisive and hurtful to too many of our people.”

McAuliffe now joins a growing group of state officials recognizing the divisiveness of the Confederate flag, even if offered as an historical symbol to state residents choosing to display it.

He can’t stop private citizens from waving that  flag, but he sure can stop the state from letting it appear on a state license plate.

That’s all the more important now, given the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision last week in Walker v. Texas Sons of Confederate Veterans, holding that specialty license plates are government speech.

(Notably, in that case, Texas refused to allow the Confederate Veterans plate, finding it too offensive.)

“As a general matter,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote, “when the government speaks it is entitled to promote a program, to espouse a policy or to take a position.”

What that means here, of course, is that the Confederate flag on a North Carolina license plate is no longer the message of a private group.

It’s now the message of the state of North Carolina.


Update:  Several media outlets are now reporting that the governor will act to stop the issuance of state license plates bearing the Confederate battle flag emblem.  “The time is right to change this policy due to the recent Supreme Court ruling and the tragedy in Charleston,”  Josh Ellis, spokesman for Gov. Pat McCrory, said in an email to WRAL.





McCrory_budget305-aIt has been a rough couple of weeks for Governor Pat McCrory. First, the House and Senate overrode his vetoes of the so-called ag-gag bill and the legislation that allows magistrates to refuse to marry gay couples if they have a religious objection to marriage equality.

Then Monday Senate leaders rolled out a budget that refuses to restore the state historic tax credit program that McCrory has spent months promoting across the state. The budget also includes a plan to change how local sales tax revenue is distributed that McCrory vigorously opposes, and a proposal to reform Medicaid that McCrory’s appointees at DHHS don’t support.

And to add insult to injury, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger told reporters that he does not see the need for a transportation bond issue—another top McCrory priority—preferring instead to stop budget transfers out of the highway fund to raise money for highway projects.

It is the latest reminder that the folks running the Senate believe they are in charge in North Carolina regardless of what the governor of their own party believes.


6-8-15-NEW-NCPW-CARTOONThis morning’s edition of “Monday Numbers” has all the sobering stats you could want regarding Governor McCrory’s rather remarkable decision to go back on his 2012 campaign promise in which he pledged not to approve any new restrictions on a woman’s right to obtain an abortion.

Click here if you haven’t already tired of watching McCrory’s now infamous one word promise on the subject.

Not surprisingly, the Guv didn’t issue any kind of special statement to accompany his decision to approve the bill. Rather, he simply listed the bill number with eight others and slapped it onto the bottom of his announcement to finally grant the pardons to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown.h465-announcement

That was courageous.

Meanwhile, reaction from advocates for women’s’ health and reproductive freedom are responding to the Governor’s regrettable decision. This is from the ACLU of North Carolina:

Gov. McCrory Signs New Abortion Restrictions, Breaking Campaign Promise Again

RALEIGH – On Friday, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed HB 465, a bill that will triple the mandatory waiting time for abortion care to 72 hours, making North Carolina only the fifth state in the nation with such a lengthy forced delay. During his 2012 campaign for governor, McCrory vowed to sign no further restrictions on abortion access.

“For the second time, Governor McCrory has broken his promise to sign no new restrictions on abortion access in our state, making it clear that he does not respect a woman’s ability to make her own personal health care decisions,” said Sarah Preston, acting Executive Director of the ACLU of North Carolina. “This shameful law will do nothing to help women in North Carolina. Instead, it will force a woman to endure an unnecessary and potentially harmful delay before receiving the care that she and her doctor have decided is right for her.”

In 2013, McCrory signed a bill that authorized severe and medically unnecessary restrictions on women’s health clinics that provide abortions

A forced waiting period is not necessary because a woman who has decided to have an abortion has already carefully considered her decision. New polling shows that most Americans identify as pro-choice and that seven in 10 Americans say that a woman who has decided to have an abortion should be able to do so without additional hurdles.

Medical experts say that these bills do not help women. Instead, they can push abortion later into pregnancy and subject women to stigma and shame. These bills have no medical basis, and medical groups like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists oppose these types of laws.


Pat McCrory 4On Wednesday evening, Governor McCrory stated that he is planning on signing the controversial House Bill 465 when it reaches his desk. The Governor’s statement came hours after the House voted 71 to 43 to make the bill, which includes a 72-hour abortion waiting period, law in North Carolina.

The Governor’s decision came as a shock to those who had trusted him to stay true to his word. During his 2012 campaign, McCrory promised he would not sign any additional restrictions on abortions into law. However in 2013, he signed a bill creating unnecessary regulations for abortion clinics and further restricting insurance coverage of abortions. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, it was expected that when faced with a blatant abortion restriction, the Governor would veto the bill. It is clear now that McCrory has no intention of keeping his campaign promise. He is happy with the revised version of the bill; he has declared that it will positively protect women’s health. (Scroll down to see the video of the Governor’s now blatantly broken 2012 pledge and his explanation of the first time he went back on it).

The HB 465 that the Governor plans to sign looks nothing like the bill that was first introduced in April, with one exception: the mandated 72-hour waiting period.

The initial version of the bill included strong restrictions on the ability of doctors and UNC system hospitals to perform safe abortions. The final version leaves out the restrictions on UNC but adds in tougher laws against statutory rape and sex offenses. It also adds protections for victims of domestic violence. With the second edition of the bill, it appeared that the Legislature had realized the error of their ways and the absurdity of preventing one of the best ob-gyn programs in the country from teaching this family planning skill. Unfortunately, that clarity did not last long. Within weeks, without providing a reason, the Republican-controlled Senate decided to dump unrelated criminal justice provisions into the bill.

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McCrory budgetIt’s been great to see Gov. McCrory veto two major pieces of legislation in as many days. His rejection of the absurd bill to re-institute marriage discrimination and the overly-broad proposal to limit free speech by employees who witness objectionable things in their workplaces (aka the “Ag Gag” bill)  constitutes a welcome departure from his normal posture vis a vis the General Assembly — i.e. serving mostly as a doormat.

That said, there are two obvious next steps for the Governor if he wants this little episode to amount to anything more than just a brief and quickly forgotten hiccup in the Raleigh policy battles.

First, he needs to veto the dangerous anti-abortion bill that lawmakers will send to him next week. The Guv promised during his 2012 campaign that he would approve no more restrictions on a woman’s right to obtain an abortion and there is simply no way to spin House Bill 465 as anything other than just that.

Second, he needs to take the next step and figure out a way to use the hint of a backbone he’s recently discovered as means of becoming the kind of leader who can effectively negotiate with the General Assembly before it ever gets to the point at which  he has to use the veto. The Guv is (or, at least, ought to be) the most visible and powerful Republican in North Carolina. That he has been so utterly inept in driving or even managing the agenda of a legislature controlled by members of his own party might just be unprecedented in recent state history. Until not that long ago, Gov. Jim Hunt exercised enormous control over a General Assembly of his party without the power to veto.

The bottom line: Two and a half years into his term, Pat McCrory has begun to learn how to crawl as Governor. If he wants to stand, walk upright and lead, he needs to do a lot more.