State Flag: A Tough Battle Ahead

The Mississippi flag and its confederate battle flag emblem bring up the debate of hate versus heritage, history versus racism. Mississippi's 17-member flag commission says it's time to stop the debate with a new flag to be decided in a statewide vote.

Representative Frances Fredericks says she agrees we need a new flag, but she doesn't agree that the voters should decide. That job should be left up to lawmakers.

"We should take that vote, we should vote and we should go on from there," Fredericks says. "When you run for public office, there's always gonna be something that you really wish you didn't have to do, but it's part of your duties as a servant to the people. I feel we should pick up this and run with it."

Representative Roger Ishee's views couldn't be more different. His Confederate heritage makes preserving the state flag a personal battle for Ishee. He says he does not like the flag commission's recommended new design.

"It means nothing to most people who look at it, including me," Ishee says. "It has no history, it has no background. They're creating something."

Instead of a new flag, Ishee is co-sponsoring a bill that would make the current flag official. But if there isn't enough legislative support for that, he says put it to a vote.

"The voters should decide on this. This is a very devisive issue and I think the best way to solve the problem is to go that route."

A route that could get pretty bumpy as the legislature tackles an issue it's been avoiding for years.

A statewide vote will cost taxpayers big bucks.  Harrison County's election commissioners say a flag referendum will come with a price tag of about $50,000.  The secretary of state says holding a vote in all 82 counties will add up to between $2 and $3 million dollars.