State flag, lottery amendments rise and fall yet again

Print Share on LinkedIn More

Attempts to establish a lottery and require Mississippi colleges and universities to fly the state flag failed once more after the House of Representatives voted Monday against multiple amendments to appropriations bills.

UPDATE: More amendments fail on Tuesday.

Gil Ford Photography

Rep. William Shirley, R-Quitman

Rep. William Shirley, R-Quitman, tried to insert amendments into two appropriations bills that would require institutions of higher learning to “prominently display and fly the state flag each day of the year” to receive the appropriations and the tax-exempt provisions put forth in the bills.

Shirley’s first attempt was last Wednesday, when the House took up Senate Bill 2509. The bill would give Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi the ability to build tax-exempt dorms. Quitman introduced an amendment that required any school taking advantage of the tax exempt provision to fly the state flag.

All eight state universities decline to fly the flag because it features the controversial Confederate battle emblem.

Rep. Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, told the House on Wednesday that the amendment would not remain in the bill when it gets to a joint House-Senate conference committee.

Shirley offered up the same amendment on a different bill dealing with bonds for colleges and universities the next day, but the bill was eventually tabled so that House staffers could sort of discrepancies and House Speaker Philip Gunn could rule on the point of order put forth by a representative.

On Monday afternoon, Shirley tried again with two Senate appropriations bills for the Institutes of Higher Learning, SB 2954 and 2955. Schools that accept money from the government should fly the state flag no matter what it looks like, he said.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we offered this amendment last Wednesday and it passed this body. I offered this same amendment last Thursday that basically says IHL will display whatever our flag is in this state — whatever it is — pink polka dotted elephant, I don’t care,” Shirley said. “But if they’re getting tax money they should fly the flag of the state.”

Smith raised a point of order for both amendments but they were rejected, so the House had to vote on them. Both amendments were then tabled.

Gil Ford Photography

Rep. Alyce Clarke, D-Jackson

Separately, Rep. Alyce Clark, D-Jackson, introduced another controversial amendment on Monday to Senate Bill 2986. The bill addresses appropriations for the Gaming Commission, but Clarke’s amendment states “no funds appropriated under this act may be expended unless there is an established state lottery by the Mississippi Gaming Commission.”

Clarke told the House floor that residents already spend their money on lotteries in other states; her amendment would allow Mississippians to spend that money on a lottery that benefits their own.

“What this particular amendment would do is just allow us to solve some the problems we have,” Clarke said. “All of you know that currently we are taking all of our money across the state and taking care of the children and some of the other problems that the other states have. So all I’m asking you to do is that we not do anything until we have a lottery in the state of Mississippi.”

A representative introduced a point of order and the bill is now set aside pending the ruling of the chairman.