Lawmaker trying to force public universities to fly state flag

FILE PHOTO - In this Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016 file photo, a state flag of Mississippi is unfurled by Sons of Confederate Veterans and other groups on the grounds of the state Capitol in Jackson, Miss., in support of keeping the Confederate battle emblem on the state flag. Mississippi attorney Carlos Moore is trying to revive his lawsuit challenging the Confederate battle emblem on the state flag. Moore filed notice Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016, that he will appeal a federal judge’s decision that dismissed the suit. The Mississippi flag has had the Confederate emblem since 1894, and voters chose to keep it in a 2001 referendum. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) –  Universities could lose certain funds if they refuse to fly the state flag. It all depends on two amendments recently added to bills by Representative William Shirley. Those bills are currently up for debate in the House, Senate Bill 2509 and Senate Bill 2281.

“We as legislatures know the eyes of the nation are in our state as it pertains to racial relations and our flag and it’s just time to take down the flag,” says Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus Chair, Sonya Williams-Barnes. She says she spoke with Republican Representative William Shirley who introduced the amendments.

“I just asked him if he would not do the same thing that he did yesterday. He told me that he was pushing it forward and he was not trying to cause any racial instances. However he felt that we need to respect our state flag and we need to fly our flag at our institutions that are receiving funds from the state,” adds Williams-Barnes.

This isn’t the first time a proposal to push universities to fly the flag was presented. All eight universities no longer fly the banner. Several bills were brought forth in committee earlier this year but later died.

“His amendment was to force them to fly the state flag or not receive the state tax credit,” says Williams-Barnes.

Shirley added a flag amendment Wednesday to Senate Bill 2509 and again to Senate Bill 2281, Thursday. The amendment to SB 2509 could withhold tax credits for Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi. The amendment for SB 2281 could withhold funds from all eight public universities.

“It’s not conducive for economic development. It’s not conducive for our receptive of tourism. I think that the economic impact that it has on our state is a big issue. However, this is not the legislation for that. If he wanted to oppose legislation it should’ve been in a flag bill,” says Williams-Barnes.

Some lawmakers are now challenging the language of the amendments, saying it doesn’t fit the language of the bills they are attached to. Now it’s up to House Speaker Philip Gunn, a Republican who’s been outspoken in the past about changing the state flag. Gunn has until Tuesday to decide whether to keep the amendments or not.

The House will reconvene Monday at 2 p.m.

Representative Sonya Williams-Barnes
Representative William Shirley

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