Over the last week, a resolution was offered in the Mississippi Senate by Sen. Derrick Simmons (D) to allow the Legislature to consider changing the design of the state flag to what has been coined the “Stennis Flag.”
In 2001, that decision was left up to a vote of the people as to whether or not to change the flag. Simmons’ resolution would strictly allow for the issue to be handled in the Capitol by lawmakers.
A resolution like this would typically be referred to the Rules Committee for consideration. However, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann referred the measure to the Constitution Committee chaired by Sen. Chris Johnson (R).
Since the conversation surrounding the state flag gained traction over the last few weeks, legislators and statewide officials have disagreed on how that change should happen, whether by a vote of the people or within the Legislature.
Many lawmakers have voiced that while they are for the change of the design of the state flag, they do not believe it should be done by the Legislature. They are of the opinion that it should be left to a vote. That sentiment has been the position of leadership in both chambers.
“I have been, and I am today, in favor of placing a decision on Mississippi’s flag on a statewide ballot,” said Lt. Gov. Hosemann. “Our citizens are facing many challenges in the economy, healthcare, and education, and the continuing controversy regarding our current banner detracts from addressing these issues. It is time for this controversy to be resolved. I believe the flag which represents me and my grandchildren should reflect all of our citizens’ collective future, as determined by those who will live under that banner.”
Speaker of the House Philip Gunn has been open about his opinion in favor of changing the flag. In a speaking engagement last summer, Gunn said he believed that while Mississippi should remember its past, the symbols on the state flag have become a point of offense that need to be removed. At that time, he said he still thought that bringing the vote to the people was the preferred method.
The resolution offered by Sen. Simmons does not put the flag up for a public vote; it leaves it in the hands of the Legislature. Sen. Johnson indicated to Y’all Politics that because of this fact, it did not have the support to make it out of committee and to the floor of the Senate.
“It won’t come out of committee. We don’t have the votes to pass it,” said Sen. Johnson.
Given the timing of the resolution, a two-thirds vote by Senate members on the floor is required before it can move forward in the process.
Sen. Simmons has been a supporter of the redesign of the state flag and believes the symbol on the flag should be one that represents all Mississippians. The Confederate Battle Symbol currently depicted on the flag, the Senate Minority Leader has expressed, is a point of contention for many Mississippians as they believe it represents a racist era of the state’s history.
This is not the first time a resolution or bill has been filed to change the state flag this session. Simmons’ measure is one of 10 bills that were submitted to change the design of the flag this year. Those bills ranged from a redesign to a proposed design like the Magnolia Flag. The other nine bills filed at the beginning of session died.
If this resolution is not taken out of the Senate Constitution Committee Lt. Governor Hosemann could still chose to refer it to another committee. Technically, the resolution would not be considered dead until Sine Die, which because of HB 69 extending the 2020 session will now be October 5th at midnight.