Members of the business community in Mississippi are urging legislative leaders to vote to change the state flag this week. And results from a new survey show more than half of likely voters in the state agree.
The Mississippi Bankers Association stood behind changing the state flag in 2001 when voters decided to keep the 1894 flag containing the confederate emblem. Gordon Fellows, president of the association, says they’re reaffirming their position.
“Banks in the state employ a diverse set of employees that do a lot of different things and come from a lot of different backgrounds,” said Fellows.
“And we feel from the employment point of view... the employer point of view, it’s important that the state flag represents everybody.”
Fellows says the flag has also put them at an economic disadvantage when they’ve been unsuccessful in recruiting new talent and out-of-state companies.
Scott Waller, President and CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council, says they’re running an ad signed by at least 500 of the state's most prominent business and industry leaders calling for the flag to come down. The council also released polling data from a new survey showing 55% of likely voters favor changing the state flag and 41% do not.
“This has been a complete shift from where we were in January of 2019 when those numbers were actually 43 for changing the flag and 54 percent for not changing the flag,” said Waller.
“So getting that done now is really important because I think the public sentiment is there and I think it’s the opportunity that we need to seize in order to get the flag changed.”
Lawmakers only have a few days to act before the session is expected to close. Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn has supported changing the state flag. Republican Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, who oversees the state Senate, said the Legislature should take action. In a statement Wednesday, Hosemann wrote "the Legislature in 1894 selected the current flag and the Legislature should address it today.”
Hosemann, who hasn’t been as public on the issue, said a new flag should bear the state seal and include "In God We Trust.”