22 state flag-related bills filed

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Rogelio V. Solis, AP

Mississippi lawmakers supporting the state flag rallied last January at the Capitol. From left, Republican Reps. Robert Foster of Hernando, Dana Criswell of Olive Branch, Ken Morgan of Morgantown, Chris Brown of Nettleton, Bubba Carpenter of Burnsville and William Shirley Jr.

In the state’s bicentennial year, and a few months after two flag initiatives failed to receive enough signatures to make a statewide ballot, lawmakers have filed 22 bills offering to change, keep or let voters decide on the current state flag.

Twelve bills, all drafted by black Democrats, propose a new state flag.

Seven bills, all drafted by white Republicans, would support the current state flag and impose statutory punishments for governmental entities refusing to fly it.

Two lawmakers – Rep. John Hines, D-Greenville, and Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson – filed bills that would leave the issues to Mississippi voters on a statewide ballot (one in November 2017 and the other in November 2018).

And for the second straight year, House Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, proposed adopting a second official state flag that does not contain the controversial Confederate battle emblem. Under his bill, governmental entities could decide which flag to fly.

“I would provide a mechanism by which we wouldn’t abolish the old flag at all,” Snowden said Monday. “We would create a new flag of equal status and dignity that could be flown in place of the old one, alongside the current one or not flown at all. The primary benefit would be that it allows us to move forward without overturning the will of the people.”

All flag bills this session will move to Senate and House Rules committees, where they face next week’s Tuesday deadline to be voted to the chamber floors. Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton and Senate Rules chairman, said Tuesday that the bills are “under consideration and we’ll figure it out before next week.” House Rules Chairman Rep. Jason White, R-West, was not available for comment.

In 2001, Mississippi voters decided overwhelmingly to keep flying the current state flag. Since then, no substantial executive or legislative action has been taken. Since 2000, five flag-related initiatives failed to garner enough signatures to make a statewide ballot. Initiative 55, which expired Oct. 15, 2016, would have stripped the Confederate emblem from the state flag. Initiative 58, which expired Nov. 5, 2016, would have cemented the adoption of the current state flag in the Mississippi Constitution.

Mississippi is the lone state that has not removed the Confederate battle flag emblem from its official state flag, and legislative leaders are split on the issue. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said earlier this month that he believes the people of Mississippi should vote on changing the flag.

Kate Royals, Mississippi Today

Speaker of the House Philip Gunn in his office at the State Capitol.

House Speaker Philip Gunn has vocally opposed the current state flag, citing a portion of the population that feels excluded by the rebel emblem it contains.

“My position on the flag has not changed,” Gunn told Mississippi Today earlier this month. “I still believe the flag needs to be changed. I think we can find something that represents all of Mississippi, so we’re going to continue those discussions to see what we can come up with.”

Last session, 19 flag-related bills died before making it to either the House or Senate floors for a vote. Social pressures have mounted since the 2015 church shooting in Charleston, S.C. States including South Carolina and Alabama have distanced themselves from the Confederate battle symbol.

Some Mississippi lawmakers have suggested the state’s bicentennial year — and two years out from the next election year — might be a good time to consider a potential change.

Gov. Phil Bryant, an ardent supporter of the current state flag, often points to the 2001 vote when discussing the merits of changing the flag. Opponents of the flag say a 16-year-old vote should not dictate today’s policy.

Adam Ganucheau | Mississippi Today

MEC staffers unfurl a Mississippi bicentennial banner.

The Mississippi Economic Council, the state’s chamber of commerce, led the 2001 charge to change the flag. Late last year, the council unveiled a bicentennial banner to honor the state’s upcoming 200th birthday. Many, including council president Blake Wilson, say the banner could spark a new conversation about the state flag.

“You’ve got a brand that disenfranchises 37 percent of your population (who are African Americans), so why would you use that brand?” Wilson said. “It’s not a brand that brings people together.”

“We’re not pushing or suggesting this is an alternative flag,” Wilson said. “But what we’re saying is this might be a way to celebrate one banner. Where it goes after that, what discussion that helps stimulate, what that helps gravitate to, we’ll just have to see what people have to say.”

Here’s a list of all 2017 flag-related bills:

KEEP

HB 1267 by Rep. Dana Criswell, R-Olive Branch – Require state universities to fly the state flag when in session

HB 1285 by Rep. Timmy Ladner, R-Poplarville – Require governmental entities that receive state funding to fly state flag; violation would result in withheld state funding

HB 1286 by Rep. William Shirley, R-Quitman – Require state flag to be flown at all public universities; violation would result in withheld state funding

HB 1287 by Rep. William Shirley, R-Quitman – Require state agencies, local governments and public universities to fly state flag; violation would result in withheld state funding

HB 1299 by Rep. Larry Byrd, R-Petal – Require every public school district to fly state flag and lead students in Pledge of Allegiance, require public universities to fly state flag; violation would result in withheld Mississippi Adequate Education Program/state funding

SB 2057 by Sen. Joseph Seymour, R-Ocean Springs – Require governmental entities to fly state flag; violation would result in withheld state funding

SB 2592 by Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville – All “public buildings” flying U.S. flag must fly state flag, and agency or department heads in violation would be stripped of salary by state or municipality. The bill allows for any citizen to take leaders of these governmental entities to court if law is violated.

CHANGE

HB 1270 by Rep. David Myers, D-McComb – Change state flag to Bonnie Blue design

HB 1271 by Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez – Change state flag to Magnolia Flag design

Rogelio V. Solis, AP

The historic Magnolia Flag, displayed at a rally last year, is one option to the current state flag mentioned in several bills filed this year.

HB 1272 by Rep. Earle Banks, D-Jackson – Change state flag to Magnolia Flag design

HB 1276 by Rep. John Hines, D-Greenville – Create study commission to redesign state flag

HB 1278 by Rep. Oscar Denton, D-Vicksburg – Change state flag to variation of Magnolia Flag design

HB 1279 by Rep. Bryant Clark, D-Pickens – Create study commission to redesign state flag

HB 1280 by Rep. Willie Perkins, D-Greenwood – Change state flag to Mississippi star design

HB 1281 by Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes, D-Gulfport – Change state flag to Magnolia Flag design

HB 1282 by Rep. Orlando Paden, D-Clarksdale – Create study commission made up of representatives from each public university to redesign state flag

Bonnie Blue flag

HB 1284 by Rep. Kathy Sykes, D-Jackson – Change state flag to Mississippi star design

SB 2081 by Sen. Derrick Simmons, D-Greenville – Change state flag to Magnolia Flag design

SB 2522 by Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson – Create study commission to redesign state flag

NEUTRAL

HB 1275 by Rep. Greg Snowden, R-Meridian – Add Magnolia Flag as second official state flag, giving Mississippians the choice of official state symbols to fly

HB 1277 by Rep. John Hines, D-Greenville – Place removal of Confederate Battle Flag emblem on statewide ballot on Nov. 6, 2018

SB 2737 by Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson – Place removal of Confederate Battle Flag emblem on statewide ballot on Nov. 7, 2017

  • Otis

    Oh look, the legislature throws gasoline on the “Let’s make Mississippi look even MORE BACKWARDS” fire.

    We might as well adopt a flag with 50th on it.

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/bill-make-schools-fly-mississippis-confederate-themed-flag-45049791

    • For the South

      Otis you are always putting down Mississippi, if you hate the state so much why don’t you just move already.

      • Otis

        Oh, please.

  • Thile

    Good to see we’ve got those infrastructure problems licked since every lawmaker has time file and debate this insipid nonsense. Nearly 50 hospitals currently at risk of closing? Who cares? “Gotta protect muh hertage!”

    The Snowden bill is a hoot. It’s like a dinner party or guests at your house, so you use the good China and silverware.

  • John

    This PC crap will be the undoing of this nation. You can see it today with the liberal progressive protests on Trumps 7 country travel ban meant to protect US citizens. So cry, scream and generally be obnoxious, but changing the flag will alienate me and all those who have consistently voted to keep the 1894 flag. Value your jobs do you?

  • Otis

    A brief history:

    1861 Mississippi secedes from the United States.
    Second paragraph of the Mississippi Declaration of Secession:
    “…Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun….”
    http://www.civil-war.net/pages/mississippi_declaration.asp

    1870 MS RE-ADMITTED to the Union after passing the State Constitution of 1868 which allowed Black Mississippians (former slaves) to vote. It also created a public education system for the former slaves.

    1876 RECONSTRUCTION in Mississippi ends, state control reverts to the White Democratic Party which immediately begins the disenfranchisement of voters created by the 1868 Constitution. This period also gives rise to groups like the White League, KKK, and the Red Shirts.

    1890 White Democrats (redeemers) complete takeover of state government. MS legislature creates the Constitution of 1890. All the gains of freedoms & civil rights from the Civil War era disappear for Black Mississippians. This was accomplished without once mentioning race in the new constitution to avoid federal scrutiny. The state constitution was ratified and never sent to the state population that could vote—for approval.

    1894 MS legislature, Southern Democratic Party having control of state government, creates the current state flag, which has the confederate battle flag incorporated into it. The same state leaders who wrote the 1890 constitution also wrote the new flag code using vague language to insert the confederate flag into the new banner. This marks the first time the confederate battle flag was used as a symbol of white political power.