Update: On Saturday, June 27, the Mississippi House of Representatives voted 91-23 for H.C. 79. On Sunday, June 28, the state Senate voted 37-14 to clear the way for a new flag to represent Mississippi. The next step is for Gov. Reeves to follow his pledge to sign it into law.
The original article is as follows:
The aftermath of George Floyd’s death has led to mass protests all over the United States, which have in turn led to change. One of those changes being asked for is the removal of Confederate monuments and statues throughout the country. And recent government efforts in Mississippi have surrounded the issue of changing the state flag, which displays an emblem of the Confederate battle flag. On June 23, Mayor Johnny Magee issued an executive order to lower the Mississippi state flag at all public buildings and facilities owned by the city of Laurel. He also urged the Legislature of the State of Mississippi to change the flag.
At the beginning of discussions, the Republican majority of the Mississippi State Legislature has been less than enthusiastic about changing the flag. Lieutenant Gov. Delbert Hosemann initially did not make a public statement regarding his position on the flag. He essentially killed a bill proposing changes by designating it to the Republican-led Senate Constitution Committee. The Chairman of the Constitution Committee, Sen. Chris Johnson (R), has made his position clear: He wants the decision to be made at the ballot box in November. To the surprise of many, on June 24, Horsemann announced he was open to changing Mississippi’s flag. He wanted to make clear he was not folding to economic pressures of potential economic development, or pressures from the SEC and NCAA. The lieutenant governor called for lawmakers to address the issue: “the Legislature in 1894 selected the current flag and the Legislature should address it today. Failing to do so only harms us and postpones the inevitable.”
First term Gov. Tate Reeves (R) stated at a press conference that there will be a time that the people of Mississippi will want to change the flag, and that the will of the people should be respected. Reeves appears to be open to a referendum, although he believes it is most likely to occur in 2021 or 2022, rather than in 2020. The last time the state flag was on the ballot was in 2001, when 64.39% of voters were in favor of keeping the current flag and 35.61% were opposed. However, public sentiment surrounding all confederate symbols has since shifted dramatically.
The debate over the Mississippi state flag has also affected college sports. On June 19, Commissioner of the South Eastern Conference (SEC), Greg Sankey, announced that neither The University of Mississippi nor The Mississippi State University could hold conference championship events in the State of Mississippi until the state flag is changed. Later that day, the President of the National Collegiate Athletic Associate (NCAA), Mark Emmert, also prohibited the schools from hosting any NCAA championship events. Enacting sanctions on college sports will lead to economic loss in Mississippi, so this strategy could result in leaders more quickly amending the state flag.