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Lawmakers: State flag will likely survive
by Zack Steen
Jan 30, 2017 | 1744 views | 0 0 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Lawmakers believe no vote will happen this Legislative session to change the Mississippi state flag.

Although Legislators have filed bills that propose to either change the flag that has been used since 1894 or punish schools, universities, local governments or state agencies that refuse to fly it.

Some officials including Rep. Nick Bain (D-Alcorn) said there’s little chance any bill will survive Tuesday’s deadline because there's little to no consensus on the issue.

“So many of us have different opinions on the state flag,” said Bain. “It’s going to continue to be hard to get everyone to agree on one measure.”

Bain said he thinks all state agencies and schools should fly the flag.

“No matter what’s on the flag, I believe it should be displayed,” he said.

Mississippi is the last state with a flag that still includes the Confederate battle emblem — a red field topped by a blue tilted cross dotted with 13 white stars.

Critics say the flag symbolizes slavery and segregation and tarnishes a state with a 38 percent black population.

Supporters say the flag represents history and heritage — and many say they're tired of attempts to downplay references to the Confederacy.

Local Rep. Lester “Bubba” Carpenter (R-Alcorn, Tishomingo) said there is rarely a day when he doesn’t get asked about the flag.

“Most of the people I represent want the flag left alone,” he said. “So I pay a lot of attention to any legislation that comes up dealing with it.”

The public display of Confederate symbols has come under widespread debate since the June 2015 slaying of nine black worshippers in a church in a Charleston, South Carolina, by an avowed white supremacist who had posed for photos with the Confederate battle flag. Soon after the massacre, South Carolina lawmakers removed a Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds. Several Mississippi political leaders said this state needs to change its flag.

All eight of Mississippi's public universities, several schools and city and county governments have stopped flying the banner because of the Confederate emblem, and the Mississippi flag has also been removed from other places, including a display of state flags outside the Oregon Capitol.

Mississippi is marking 200 years of statehood, and the state Chamber of Commerce has distributed hundreds of bicentennial banners that some businesses are flying instead of the state flag. The banner has no Confederate images.

The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the flag had not been officially recognized by state law since code books were updated in 1906. In the fall of 2000, a flag commission held several contentious hearings. Legislators put the matter to a statewide vote in April 2001. By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, voters chose the old flag over an alternative that would have displayed circles of stars representing Mississippi as the 20th state.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has said that if the flag design is to be reconsidered, it should be done by another statewide referendum.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)
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