Mississippi to get new flag

By FLOYD INGRAM / THE PRESS REGISTER,

 

Mississippi will get a new state flag, so what do you want it to look like?

On Sunday the Mississippi Legislature, on a vote of 92-23in the house and a 37-14 vote in the senate, passed House Bill 1796 that will change the design of the Mississippi State Flag.

Gov. Tate Reeves signed it Tuesdsay night.

“This is not a political moment to me but a solemn occasion to lead our Mississippi family to come together, to be reconciled, and to move on,” said Reeves. “We are a resilient people defined by our hospitality. We are a people of great faith. Now, more than ever, we must lean on that faith, put our divisions behind us, and unite for a greater good.”

And as the political whirlwind dies down the state will now create a new design that will be put before voters in the November election.

The bill that was passed this past weekend mandated the removal of Mississippi’s current state flag from all public building within 15 days, formation of a commission to redesign the flag, and the inclusion of the words “In God We Trust,” somewhere on the flag.

“Today Governor Reeves signed a law that says the new flag for the State of Mississippi shall bear the words ‘IN GOD WE TRUST,’” U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss) said Tuesday night. “By boldly and publicly acknowledging our faith in God, we will continue to show the world the true heart of Mississippi as a state of proud, hardworking, loving, innovative, and God-fearing Ameri-cans.”

Mississippi has had a number of different state flags with the design sporting the Confederate “stars-and-bars” in the upper right corner adopted in 1894. In 2001 a new design was proposed but Mississippi voter defeated that proposal with a vote of 64-percent (488,630 votes) to 36-percent (267,812), and the 1894 state flag was retained.

Over 20 flag-related bills, some calling for another statewide referendum, were introduced in the Legislature in 2015 and 2016, but none made it out of committee. The Stennis Hospitality Flag was proposed in 2014.

The Bicentennial Flag was created by the Mississippi Economic Council in 2017 for the 200 year birthday of the state. MEC has repeatedly said the flag with the star-and-bars was a hindrance to bringing industry and jobs to the state.

The state’s first flag was known as the Magnolia Flag and was adopted in 1861.

The commission that will redesign the new flag will be composed of nine people, three of whom will be appointed by Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann, three by House Speaker Philip Gunn and three appointed by Governor Tate Reeves.

The commission will seek public input and adopt its policy on how the new design will be acquired. The commission will present to the governor and lawmakers their chosen design by mid-September.

The rapid change of state lawmakers appears to have been sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and the following racial riots across the country.

Mississippi - where four out of every ten residents are black - did not see riots but there were numerous protests and rallies, including one in Clarksdale, where politicians seized the moment and called for pulling down the state flag.

The groundswell against the flag also resonated with Whites and powerful organizations within the state and high-profile people that included university leaders, religious groups, such as the Mississippi Baptist Convention, historical groups and celebrities.

Opponents of changing the flag pointed to the 2001 election and wanted another referendum put before voters.

So now the Flag Commission will form, design a new flag or pick an old one without the star-and-bars and present it for a vote in November.

If voters support the flag, it will be adopted by lawmakers. And if voters oppose it, the commission must come up with a new design and once again put it up for a statewide vote.

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