The Mississippi state House of Representatives voted 85-34 to move forward with a plan that would allow for the changing of the state flag, which was adopted in 1894 and features the Confederate battle emblem prominently displayed in the top left corner.
The legislation, which received bipartisan support, narrowly exceeded the necessary two-thirds majority that is required to suspend the legislative session’s deadline in order to proceed with the flag change, which itself would only require a majority vote, reports The Associated Press.
Under the text of the deadline-suspension legislation, the legislature can establish a commission that will have until mid-September to create a design that omits the Confederate flag, but that includes the words “In God We Trust.” The commission’s design will then be considered in a special election in November, with “sources close to House leadership” informing Mississippi Today that the current state flag will not be on the ballot.
During a 2001 election, Mississippi voted in favor of keeping the 1894 flag design.
The Washington Post reports that state House Speaker Pro Tem Jason White (R) argued that changing the flag would represent an embracement rather than an abandonment of founding principles.
“We’re not moving further away from our Founding Fathers’ visions. We’re moving closer to them. We’re not destroying our heritage; we’re fulfilling it,” said White.
The Mississippi Clarion-Ledger reports that state Representative Chris Brown (R), who voted against the bill, believes the better option is to send the decision directly to Mississippi voters: “If we put the current flag on the ballot with another good design, the people of Mississippi will change it.”
The Mississippi Historical Society has also come out in favor of retiring the current flag, and instead making it an historical artifact to be replaced by a “new flag that will unify, not divide,” reports The NorthSide Sun.
“The Mississippi Historical Society enthusiastically and unequivocally supports changing the state flag,” said the historical society, which added that its stance is rooted in “acknowledgement that the inclusion of Confederate imagery on the flag in 1894 did not represent all Mississippians.”
Ahead of the House vote on Saturday, Governor Tate Reeves (R) affirmed his intention to sign any flag bill the legislature sends to his desk, saying that it was time to end the argument that has become “as divisive as the flag itself.”
“We should not be under any illusion that a vote in the Capitol is the end of what must be done — the job before us is to bring the state together, and I intend to work night and day to do it,” said Reeves. “It will be harder than recovering from tornadoes, harder than historic floods, harder than agency corruption, or prison riots, or the coming hurricane season — even harder than battling coronavirus.”
“For economic prosperity and for a better future for my kids and yours, we must find a way to come together,” he said, adding that it was time for the public “to heal our wounds, to forgive, to resolve that the page has been turned, to trust each other.”
The legislature has been deadlocked for days as it considers a new state flag. The argument over the 1894 flag has become as divisive as the flag itself and it’s time to end it.
If they send me a bill this weekend, I will sign it. pic.twitter.com/bf3vyzuObt
— Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) June 27, 2020
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