Bill Would Allow S.C. Confederate Group to Collect Cash From License Plate Sales

The South Carolina Senate on Thursday sent a bill back to the Transportation Committee that would have allowed the state to give some money to the Sons of Confederate Veterans (search) for special license tags.

The Transportation Committee passed the bill Wednesday without discussion.

While the SCV license tags have been on the road for years, profits from them now go into the state's budget.

"All we want to do is be treated like other people who have a special tag," said Don Gordon, chairman of the state SCV's Heritage Defense Committee (search).

Other groups with special tags, like colleges and Rotarians (search), get to keep money from their plates.

The tags cost $30 more than regular license plates. After covering administrative and production expenses, the remaining money would go to Gordon's group. Gordon did not know how much the tag sales would raise. "It is a minimal, minimal amount of money," he said.

News that the state may help put money into the coffers of the Sons of Confederate Veterans comes just two days after that group's members picketed the South Carolina NAACP's annual "King Day at the Dome" march and rally at the Statehouse.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (search) continues to press economic sanctions against South Carolina because a Confederate flag flies at a monument outside the Statehouse. The group says the banner, considered a symbol of hate by some and heritage for others, should be removed from all "positions of sovereignty."

Lonnie Randolph, chairman of the state NAACP Conference of Branches, said he has not seen the license tag bill. "I hope that the state will not continue to serve as an overseer for such activities as that," Randolph said.

"I have serious concerns about the state putting itself in that position," Randolph said. "What will they do when the next white supremacist group comes looking for support?"

Gordon said his group is about Southern heritage and does not support white supremacy.

But Randolph said many of the SCV's members also are members of the League of the South (search), a group that wants a "sovereign State of South Carolina" and has been labeled a Confederate hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (search). The League of the South denies that.

As a precaution, all groups that receive tag money should have to file reports on how the cash is used, said Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston.

"The state's got to make sure the money is used for something that would not embarrass the state," Ford said.

The Senate Transportation Committee did not discuss the bill at Wednesday's meeting, approving it without a vote at the end of a session focusing on changes to the state's seat belt laws.

"We need to take look at that," said Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Greg Ryberg, R-Aiken. Ryberg said after the meeting he thought the group already received cash from the tag sales.

Passing the bill out without discussion "was a big mistake," said Sen. Clementa Pinckney, D-Ridgeland. "I didn't realize that's what it did."