Utah has a new state flag: Governor approves new look featuring large beehive
Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed signed legislation Tuesday approving a new state flag. The new flag, set to take effect in March 2024, features a large beehive at its center and red, white and blue colors.
The state's current flag isn't going away entirely, though. The years-long debate over the new flag included pushback and controversy, prompting significant changes to the bill before it was narrowly passed by the state legislature earlier this month. In addition to signing the main part of the bill on Tuesday, Cox issued an executive order outlining how the state’s historic flag will continue to be displayed.
The additional order requires the historic Utah flag to be flown at the Capitol at all times and at all state buildings on certain holidays and special occasions.
The new state flag legislation, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Dan McCay, gives "historical" status to three versions of the current Utah flag, requiring that it "be flown at the Capitol at all times and at all state buildings on certain holidays and special occasions."
Cox also requested the legislature amend the bill during an upcoming session to require the historic Utah flag be displayed above the new flag when the two are on the same pole.
"This will ensure that the historic flag will remain a symbol of our history and strength," Cox stated in a Tuesday release, adding that he was "grateful for the tens of thousands of Utahns who participated in designing and selecting this new flag."
The new law comes after several years of sometimes contentious debate over whether Utah needed a new flag and over what it should include. Lawmakers created a special task force for the job, with members then holding months of reviews and taking thousands of submissions from the public.
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When does new Utah flag take hold?
The new state flag is set to take effect on March 9, 2024, exactly 113 years after the Utah legislature adopted the historic state flag on March 9, 1911.
The current version of the state flag, adopted in 2011, features the seal of Utah encircled in a golden circle on a navy blue background. It was a slight adaptation from a flag that had been in use since 1913, which featured a bald eagle, the sego lily flower and the state motto, "Industry."
According to the Utah Department of Culture and Community Engagement, the state's original flag was created in 1903. That flag was created by the Daughters of the American Revolution under the direction of Gov. Heber M. Wells.
Efforts to change Utah's state flag began in 2019, with thousands of designs submitted by the public before officials chose from a select few and then held a vote on the topic.
Potential referendum could challenge change
While Cox's signature authorizes the new flag to become official next year, a potential public referendum could challenge the change.
A group named "Referendum to Save Utah's Flag" filed paperwork seeking the referendum earlier this month, KSL.com reported. If enough signatures are reached next month, the bill could end up on a future ballot.
As of Tuesday, the referendum effort had 137 signatures, according to Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson's office. That's well under the 134,298 signatures needed by April 12, KSL.com and the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
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What does the new Utah flag look like?
The new flag features a central beehive and accompanying star surrounded by a hexagon, snowy mountains, and red rocks on a blue foundation, according to Utah Department of Culture and Community Engagement's "More Than Just A Flag" initiative.
The colors and symbols represent various aspects of the state's history, people and geography, as well as principles like strength and unity, the initiative says.
Why did Utah change its flag?
Utah launched a campaign to change its flag to better represent current Utah residents' "shared values," the state says.
Utah's historic flag features a bald eagle, the state motto and two dates – 1847, for when Mormon pioneers first came to the region, and 1896, for when Utah became the 45th state – among other aspects of Utah's state seal.
According to "More Than Just A Flag," a 2021 survey of Utah residents found that the majority of respondents didn't feel like the now-historic flag represented them – strengthening calls to change the design.
"The aim was to create a design that's easier to reproduce and recognize at a distance, a design that Utahns can rally around," the state website reads.
USA TODAY contributed to this story.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: New Utah flag: See the old and new designs as Cox approves changes