What we know, and what's next, for the bill to change the Mississippi state flag

JACKSON, Miss. – Mississippi lawmakers voted to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag this weekend after fierce debate that Gov. Tate Reeves called "as divisive as the flag itself."

The bill to change the state flag passed Senate 37-14. The House approved the bill with a vote of 84-35.

Here are some key takeaways from the weekend:

More: Mississippi lawmakers overwhelmingly pass bill to create new state flag without Confederate battle emblem

How the move to change gained momentum

It's not the first time lawmakers have tried to change the state flag, first approved in 1894. However, as other cities worked to remove Confederate monuments from public areas and amid protests and discussions of racial injustice after the death of George Floyd, the flag has come under renewed, sharp criticism.

One of those who spoke out was Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill, who said he would not represent 'this State anymore' as long as the flag's design was not changed.

"The voice of this young man was a tremendous voice," Democratic Rep. Omeria Scott said Sunday during debate over the bill.

Others, such as Ole Miss men's basketball coach Kermit Davis, Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach and music star Faith Hill, weighed in as well.

What's next for the legislation?

Reeves has indicated that he will sign the bill to change the flag and that he will do so within the coming days.

What does the bill do?

When signed into law, it would immediately take down the flag and set up a nine-member commission to design a new one. This means the flag will be coming down across the state within the coming days.

A new design will include the words "In God We Trust" and no Confederate battle emblem, according to the legislation. Voters would then get to approve or reject the commission's design in November. If voters reject the design, it returns to the commission to be redesigned.

Key takeaways from the debates

Here are some highlights from the debates:

  • Speaker Pro Tem Jason White, a Republican, spoke on the House floor in favor of the bill. “Many opponents of changing the state flag say we should stand up to what is right, that we shouldn’t cave to outside pressure … even if it’s bad for business," White said. "I agree with those people. ... I’m here today because it is simply the right thing to do.”

  • Sen. Barbara Blackmon, a Black Democrat, said she had witnessed several major historical moments, but she never expected the state flag to come down in her lifetime. "The time has come to take this flag down, because it is right," she told her colleagues.

  • Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Republican, argued that in the future, people who view the American flag as oppressive may want to take it down as well and that voters should decide whether to change the state flag. “I don’t see how that makes me a racist," he said. "I don’t see how that makes me a terrible human being.”

  • Gov. Reeves tweeted that he would sign a bill that comes to his desk.

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Mississippi legislators vote to change state flag: What we know