Historic vote sets up final vote on fate of Mississippi state flag

Updated: Jun. 27, 2020 at 6:22 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WMC) - The path has been cleared in the Mississippi legislature for a vote to potentially remove the controversial Mississippi state flag containing the Confederate battle emblem.

This historic vote Saturday has paved the way for yet another potentially historic vote that could come as soon as Sunday.

Experts say they believe there are enough votes to remove the Mississippi flag but the fight isn’t over yet.

Lawmakers applauded as a resolution to extend the current legislative session passed in both the Mississippi House and Senate, narrowly clearing the 2/3rds vote threshold necessary.

“This is definitely a historic day in Mississippi,” said Phillip Gunn, the Republican Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives.

“We still have the bill to go, and we still have a vote to go,” said Lt. Governor of Mississippi Delbert Hosemann. “But we needed to step forward in Mississippi and this is that one step.”

With the legislative session now extended, lawmakers will take up a bill to immediately remove the controversial Mississippi State flag containing the Confederate battle emblem.

If the bill passes both chambers, there would be no official Mississippi state flag while a 9-member commission is formed to come up with an alternative design that Mississippians would vote on in November.

“It has become an image that some have co-opted to use for things that don’t reflect Mississippi,” said Gunn. “And for that reason, we need to find something that better reflects the citizens of our state.”

Republican votes were critical in achieving the 2/3rds majority needed.

But there were Republican state lawmakers in opposition, many of whom argued that the decision to change the flag or not should be up to Mississippi voters.

“We all want a flag that unites us,” said Mississippi State Senator D-42 Chris McDaniel. “But is it possible? How do you find a unified state by telling 65% of its citizens that they can’t be heard?”

Earlier Saturday, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves tweeted, “The argument over the 1894 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.”

Nathan Shrader, Chairman of the Government and Politics Department at Millsaps College says that change of policy from Reeves, who has previously said voters should make the ultimate decision, played a key role in Saturday’s vote.

“It’s too early to know how many Republican members who voted with the people who wanted to change the flag were driven by his position, but what it certainly did do is it took away some of the uncertainty,” said Shrader. “There’s a reason to celebrate this but it’s not done yet.”

For the bill removing the state flag to pass in the coming days, all that is needed is a simple majority in the Mississippi House and Senate.

Although experts say the votes appear to be there, the situation could change rapidly and the vote is expected to be very close.

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