Will Mississippi legislators take up the flag controversy? - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Will Mississippi legislators take up the flag controversy?

A group called One Flag for all Mississippians is trying to get enough signatures to put initiative 55 on the ballot. The measure is aimed at removing the Confederate symbol from the state flag. (Photo source: newmsflag.org) A group called One Flag for all Mississippians is trying to get enough signatures to put initiative 55 on the ballot. The measure is aimed at removing the Confederate symbol from the state flag. (Photo source: newmsflag.org)
JACKSON, MS (WLOX) -

Mississippi is the last state in America with any reference to the Confederacy displayed on a state flag. The battle emblem has always been a hotly contested issue.

A group called One Flag for all Mississippians is trying to get enough signatures to put initiative 55 on the ballot. The referendum would read, "The flag of Mississippi shall not contain or include any reference to the Confederate Army's battle flag or to the Confederacy."

This week, the organization called on the newly seated Legislature to address the issue in 2016.

"As legislators return to the capitol, one of the most pressing issues is the growing outcry to change the flag," said Sharon Brown.

Governor Phil Bryant responded to the call to action saying he will not ask lawmakers to take up the issue.

"I have said so many times, to choose the state flag must be the people's decision, not the legislature," Bryant said.

Many say the current state flag tarnishes the state's image and has a negative impact on our economy. Lt. Governor Tate Reeves insists he's seen no evidence of that being a problem.

"There have been some challenges over the years. I've sat in a lot of economic development meetings and talked to former governors, and rarely does the flag come up in the conversation," Reeves said.

Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn said after the mass shooting at a South Carolina church that maybe it was time to have a conversation about changing the flag. There seems to be little momentum in the legislature to take up the issue.

Even though a public vote failed to change the flag in 2003, Bryant thinks the Flags for All Mississippians group should pursue the referendum and make every attempt to get it on the ballot this fall.

"That would be the perfect time to allow the people to vote, during the Presidential election when turnout is large. They can vote on whether or not they want to change the flag. The legislature would have to offer an alternative and they're capable of doing that," according to Governor Bryant.

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