• 72°

Mississippi Legislature votes to begin process of changing state flag

June 27, 2020, is a day that could quite possibly go into the Mississippi history books as the day that change began.

The Mississippi Legislature passed House Concurrent Resolution 79 on Saturday, allowing the suspension of rules to take place and to begin work on a new state flag.

Mississippi’s current state flag features Confederate emblems, and is the only state flag in the country to do so. It has been a source of divisiveness for a long period of time, but has been magnified over the past couple months due to the civil unrest throughout the United States.

Mississippi’s House of Representatives passed the resolution with a vote of 84-35, which sent it to the Mississippi Senate for its approval. The Senate required a two-third vote, needing 35 of the 52 senators to vote in favor.

As the afternoon went on, there was talk of the vote coming down to the wire and possibly being within one or two votes either way. After Senator Chris McDaniel and others spoke, a role call vote took place, with 36 senators voting in favor of the resolution.

Of the three Representatives for Oxford and Lafayette County, two of them voted for the resolution: Clay Deweese and Steve Massengill. Representative Brady Williamson of District 10 voted against the resolution.

In the Senate, District 9 senator Nicole Akins Boyd voted in favor of the resolution.

With the largest hurdle cleared, there are still two more steps to be taken. The House and Senate must now vote on the bill to remove the current flag, and then Governor Tate Reeves must sign it into law.

On Saturday morning prior to the votes, Reeves stated on his social media accounts he would sign a bill if one appeared on his desk this weekend before the current legislative session ended.

“The legislature has been deadlocked for days as it considers a new state flag,” Reeves said. “The argument over the 1984 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. … For economic prosperity and for a better future for my kids and yours, we must find a way to come together. To heal our wounds, to forgive, to resolve that the page has been turned, to trust each other.”

One item that was required in the resolution was that the new state flag must include “In God We Trust.” Beyond that, the only rules in place were to form a commission that would come up with a design to submit to be on the ballot for the upcoming election in November. If that design does not receive a majority vote, the commission will go back and come up with another design for an election at a future date. During this time, Mississippi would not have an official state flag.

The House went into recess following their vote until 2 p.m. on Sunday, as did the Senate, which will reconvene at 2:30 p.m.