Sunday, the Mississippi Legislature finalized and passed a landmark bill that removes the current state flag and puts the procedure in place for a new one that will feature the words “In God we Trust”, which is currently emblazoned on the state seal, to be adopted. The bill now heads to Governor Tate Reeves, who has indicated that he will sign it.

The bill was passed in the House and the Senate before they left on Sunday by a vote of 91 to 23 in the House and 37 to 14 in the Senate.

 

HB 1796 was presented by Rep. Jason White in the House of Representatives and was brought to the floor after going through the Rules committee.

The original bill is as the resolution passed on Saturday outlined.

“Some people might even say it is no coincidence we are here today on the Lord’s day,” said Rep. White who was asked to present the bill to members.

The state flag bill will immediately retire the state flag of Mississippi as is currently recognized, directing the Department of Archives and History to removed and retire it by July 15.

The bill also outlines the formation of a nine-person committee that will be tasked with presenting a design for the new flag that will appear on the ballot. The flag proposed shall not contain any Confederate battle symbols and must have the words “In God We Trust.”

The design that is to be submitted by September 14, 2020, will appear on the November ballot for the people of Mississippi to vote on. If the design is approved by a two-thirds vote, it will be adopted. If not, the commission will be asked to try again.

Until a flag is voted on by the people, the state will remain without a state flag.

The commission will be comprised of nine members, with three selected by Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, three by Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann and three by Governor Tate Reeves. The Governor’s appointments will include someone from the Mississippi Economic Council, Mississippi Arts Commission and the Board of Trustees. The commission isn’t to be formed by July 15, 2020.

As the debate commenced, members of the Mississippi Senate entered to listen to the historic debate.

Rep. Jerry Turner, Chairman of the Rules Committee, came to the podium to explain why he voted “no” on the resolution yesterday. He said he did not want to take the right of the people to vote on the flag. However, he said that that debate is settled, and this bill is something new. He compared what was happening in the Capitol to a train leaving the station.

“We have another train before us today. As I thought and prayed about this, I thought of this in my mind as the train of unification,” said Turner. “Today you can get your ticket for that train of unification and it is headed for a destiny called unity.”

Turner said he wants to be one to get inline and be on the at train. He asks members to make the choice to join on this journey in a new flag for all.

As Rep. White closed on the bill he asked all members to vote green, in the affirmative for what he says is all the good in Mississippi.

The bill was immediately released to the Senate where it faced its second round of debate.

After passing the Senate Rules Committee, Senator Briggs Hopson brought the bill up on the floor. Once that was done,

“I want the people in Mississippi to know and people around the country to know how difficult it is for many of you to take on this issue,” said Hopson. He has been clear in support of a change of the flag. He made a football reference in saying the Legislature has “punted” this issue away, but today is the day and they have the opportunity to “push this ball across the goal line.”

Sen. Chris McDaniel asked if the “In God We Trust,” which must be included on the flag design, could cause lawsuits because not everyone in the state is a Christian. Sen. Hopson said that Mississippi is not the only state with that mantra, as well as the U.S. currency. He added that he hopes the state doesn’t ever move away from Christianity.

The question raises a concern that eventually a new flag, will have to be removed again. Hopson said he is happy to have that mantra on the flag until a court of the proper authority tells the state to take it down.

Many Senators spoke on the bill, both in favor of the bill and against it. The discussion in the Senate lasted much longer than it did in the House as they debated whether or not the current flag should be removed by a measure of the Legislature.

Sen. Angela Hill attempted to offer an amendment. Her amendment would have effectively put the flag on the ballot during a special election in April of 2021. It would require people not only to vote to change the flag but provide three options for a replacement. Hill attempted to expand the commission to 17 members and not 9. The amendment outlines where those members would come from and who would be responsible for appointment.

She told members if they voted for the amendment they were voting for the people’s right to vote on a change of the flag, and if they voted against it they were saying that the people don’t have the right to make the choice.

Senator Brice Wiggins made a motion to table the amendment, which passed by a vote of 32 to 19, making the amendment ineffective.

Sen. Derrick Simmons was the first to speak in favor of the bill.

“In the name of history whether, we black or white, rich or poor, Democrat or Republican,  I ask you today to stand in the name of history. I ask each of you as we recognize the Mississippi of yesterday let us vote today for the Mississippi of tomorrow.”

He was followed by Senator Juan Barnett, Sen John Horhn, Sen. Chad McMahan, Sen. David Jordan, and Sen. McDaniel who was the only one to speak against the bill.

“A lot of people around Mississippi in their hearts know it is time for Mississippi to make a change,” said Hopson in closing. “I’ll go to my grave knowing I stood up here with all of you to make our state a better place.”

You can see excerpts from the discussion below: