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Confederate Flag Debate Spreading to Federal Transportation Funding

An Ohio Senator hopes to use the transportation reauthorization bill to motivate states that issue license plates bearing the Confederate flag to remove them. A week ago the Supreme Court ruled states can do so without violating the first amendment.
June 26, 2015, 11am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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The debate centering around the Confederate flag flying on the capitol grounds in Columbia, South Caroilna may be coming to the U.S. Senate—in the form of a transportation reauthorization amendment.

"The federal government should use 'all its powers' to make states stop displaying the Confederate flag on public property, Sen. Sherrod Brown said Wednesday," writes Deirdre Shesgreen of USA TODAY. "The Ohio Democrat said he would start that push by introducing legislation to strip a portion of federal highway dollars from any state that allows the Confederate flag to be displayed on its license plates."

Under Brown's legislation, which he is still crafting, if a state allowed specialty plates featuring the Confederate flag, it would lose 5 percent of its federal highway funds. He said he might expand the proposal to apply to other places where the Confederate flag is displayed.

Any legal impediment to Brown's plan as it applies to license plates would appear to have been removed by a June 18 ruling by the Supreme Court on this topic. "Texas did not violate the First Amendment when it refused to allow specialty license plates bearing the Confederate battle flag," wrote Adam Liptak of The New York Times on the outcome of Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans.

"Brown said he plans to offer the bill as an amendment to the highway bill, a must-pass piece of legislation," writes Shesgreen. The six-year bill, known as the Drive Act, was unanimously passed by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on June 24.

"(A)ll eyes turn to the other three Senate committees that will contribute to this bill: the Banking Committee, which writes the transit title, the Commerce Committee, which writes the rail and safety title, and the Finance Committee, which has the hardest job of all — figuring out how to pay for it all," writes Tanya Snyder of Streetsblog USA.

No word on whether Brown would attach his amendment to a likely patch bill needed to keep the roads funds when the current extension expires on July 31.

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Published on Wednesday, June 24, 2015 in Cincinnati Enquirer
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