History made: Mississippi flag to come down with passage of HB 1796 

June 28, 2020, will be recalled as a pivotal day in Mississippi’s history as lawmakers have voted to remove the controversial state flag, which has flown over the state since 1894. 

By a vote of 37 to 14, the Senate has sent HB 1796, ‘an act to establish the commission to redesign the Mississippi state flag’, to the Governor’s desk to be signed. A 91-23 vote in the House got the process started earlier today. 

The bill tasks a commission, made up of nine appointees, to propose a new state flag design with two stipulations – no Confederate battle emblem and it must include the phrase ‘In God We Trust.’

The historic legislation will instruct the Department of Archives and History to immediately develop a plan for the “prompt, dignified and respectful removal” of the current state flag featuring the divisive emblem. 

The proposed design of the new flag will be submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office by September 14th. It will then be voted upon by Mississippians on November 3rd. If that design doesn’t receive a majority of the vote, a new design would be submitted during the 2021 legislative session.

The commission will be made up of nine members – three appointees each from Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann and Governor Tate Reeves. The bill dictates that the governor’s appointments must include a representative from the Mississippi Economic Council, the Arts Commission and the Department of Archives and History.

These appointments must be made by July 15th and meetings would begin shortly after. The commission will be able to accept public comments.

Prior to the adoption of Saturday’s resolution to suspend the rules, Governor Reeves indicated that should we reach this point, he would sign a bill to take down the flag. 

Throughout this process, several lawmakers have argued in favor of allowing Mississippians to vote on the current flag design. An amendment offered by Senator Angela Hill would have expanded the flag-designing committee to 17 members while keeping the current flag intact until April 6, 2021. On that day, Mississippians would have chosen between the current flag and three potential replacements. Hill’s demand for a roll call vote ended with a 32-19 vote to table to motion. 

Many Senators spoke in favor of the bill to remove the current flag.

Following intensifying calls for change from state leaders, businesses, organizations, athletes and Mississippians from across the state, lawmakers acted quickly over this past week to gather the necessary votes to reach this milestone.