Protests surrounding the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis have spread across the nation. Since then, conversation has risen in Mississippi on whether or not state leaders should call for the removal and change of the state flag.
Currently, Mississippi’s flag contains the Confederate battle symbol, which is largely viewed as a racist symbol.
Senator Derrick Simmons (D), Chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said that conversations have been underway between both chambers regarding the possibility of introducing a resolution to have the flag changed by way of the Legislature.
“I’ve always sponsored legislation to change the current state flag and believe we should have a symbol that represents all Mississippians and not some,” said Simmons. “Based off the current temperature in the Mississippi Senate with some Republican support regarding the state flag I feel good about getting some movement for the first time in a long time.”
Simmons said as discussions have continued between members there has not been pushback from leadership in either chamber to allow for such legislation to move forward. He said many are in favor of the Stennis Flag design to replace the current state flag.
However, President Pro Tempore of the Senate Dean Kirby (R) said he has not been approached by any of the members or the Lt. Governor at this time about possible legislation.
Other leading Senate Republicans also say that some of the reporting of legislative momentum to make a change this session, quoting mostly unnamed sources, may be a bit more aspirational than reflective of reality. This stands at least in the Senate.
Republican Senator Brice Wiggins held a poll on Facebook over the weekend where he asked people if they support the Stennis flag to replace the current design. The poll, while not scientific or limited to those from Mississippi, showed a 76 percent approval rating to change the flag.
At this point in the 2020 Session lawmakers would have to suspend the rules in order to consider a new resolution to change the state flag. That would require a two-thirds vote of the members.
Lawmakers would then have the option to vote for an outright change of the flag design or put the question on the November ballot.
At press time, according to the House docket room there has not been a motion filed in order to bring forth the legislation.
The last time the flag was brought up for a vote was in 2001. Mississippi voters chose to keep the current design by over 64 percent.
Governor Tate Reeves said Monday “It should be the people” who change the flag, not politicians in some “backroom deal.” Reeves said if Mississippians wanted the flag changed they should gather signatures and seek to have it placed on the ballot. Reeves added that he would not stand in the way if the Legislature decided to put it on the ballot themselves.