Originally created 05/19/00

Flag ordeal not over



COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina's House and Senate, unable to agree today on how high a flagpole should be, left open the possibility that a measure to lower the Confederate flag from the Statehouse dome could die.

The House rejected Senate changes to the bill by a 111-2 vote. The Senate quickly met and insisted on its version, which throws the bill to a six-member conference committee. If the committee cannot agree on a final version, the bill would die when the Legislature adjourns June 1.

"They want to work it out," said Sen. John Drummond, D-Ninety Six and the Senate's president pro tem.

"I thought we had it all worked out," on Wednesday, Drummond said. "I'm firmly convinced now that there are people in the House that don't want anything."

Even opponents of moving the flag to a monument to Confederate war dead on Statehouse grounds, however, expected an eventual agreement. Among those opponents are most of the members of the House Black Caucus, who say the monument still is too prominent a location.

Rep. John Scott, a Columbia Democrat and caucus member, assessed the chances of continuing the battle against moving the flag there by saying only, "It's over."

The Senate originally wanted the flag flown from a 20-foot pole at the monument. The House changed it to 30 feet after a lengthy debate last week.

The Senate on Wednesday approved most of the other House changes that included putting a fence around the monument and lighting the flag at night. But Senators voted to split the difference on the flagpole at 25 feet.

Before today's vote, House Speaker David Wilkins had said he would have preferred the Senate leave the House bill untouched, "but I do not think those changes are unreasonable."

Moving the flag from the dome to the memorial was considered a compromise by lawmakers who have been trying for years to bring the flag down.

South Carolina is the only state that flies the Confederate flag above its Statehouse, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has been leading a tourism boycott of the state.

Supporters say it's an important part of the state's heritage; opponents say it represents slavery and racism.