Effort to force universities to fly state flag ends



By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – State Rep. William Shirley, R-Quitman, strolled to the well of the House Wednesday, silently held up a state flag and a white flag of surrender and then retreated to his desk in the back of the chamber.

With that, the great flag debate of the 2017 session appears to be over, although the issue will surely return in future sessions.

Over the last several days, Shirley had tried multiple times to amend legislation to force Mississippi’s eight public universities to fly the state flag, which includes the Confederate battle emblem as part of its design.

After the session Wednesday, Shirley refused to talk to reporters.

But earlier in the day, Shirley opted to not engage in the flag fight one last time during the 2017 session. He passed on the opportunity to try and add the flag language to the bills funding the institutions of higher learning when Appropriations Chair John Read, R-Gauter, moved to table the motions to reconsider the bills.

Shirley did not speak against Read’s motions, which passed with no debate and no opposition on a voice vote.

Those two bills appear to be the last chance Shirley had to try to pass his flag amendment in the House during the 2017 session.

Shirley was able to pass by a narrow 57-56 vote an amendment in one bill last week that would have prevented the University of Southern Mississippi and Mississippi State University from providing tax exemptions to companies that build student housing on their campuses. But the House leadership, which opposed Shirley’s amendment efforts, then killed that bill, saying there are other vehicles alive in the legislative process to allow the schools to provide the tax exemption.

After that vote, the leadership, including Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, who supports changing the controversial state flag, were able to defeat Shirley’s other efforts to force the universities to display the flag.

Shirley has repeatedly said his effort is not about the design of the flag, but the fact that schools that receive state support should fly the official banner of Mississippi.

He said at one point he did not care if the flag was “a pink, polka-dotted elephant,” the universities should fly it. The eight public universities, numerous local governments and school districts do not fly the flag that some say is perceived as a symbol of oppression against African Americans.

Others say the banner merely is a symbol of the state’s heritage and overwhelmingly was approved as the official flag of the state by Mississippi voters in a 2001 election.

When Shirley started his amendment effort, Sonya Williams Barnes, D-Gulfport, chair of the Legisative Black Caucus, said the current flag and Shirley’s amendment hurt the image of the state.

“It is time for Mississippi to make a change,” she said. “Race relations in our state are at an all-time high. … It is also imperative that we as legislators remember that the entire nation has its eyes on us as we continuously make legislation that hurts economic development in our state. We ask that leadership join us in our efforts to give Mississippi a face of progress, prosperity and respect.”

In the end, Shirley’s efforts were defeated by a coalition that included nearly all the House Democrats, including members of the Black Caucus, and a handful of Republicans, many of those in leadership positions.


Twitter: @BobbyHarrison9

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  • Thile

    I enjoyed William Shirley’s reenactment of Appomattox today: taking a thorough beatemdown from superior forces and reality, then giving up. The white flag was a nice touch, as it was and still is the only confederate flag that ever mattered.

  • DWarren

    The American principle of majority rule self-government lost to the radical anti-American minority special interests thanks to a “coalition that included nearly all the House Democrats, including members of the Black Caucus, and a handful of Republicans, many of those in leadership positions.” If the majority of Mississippi voters statewide are to be denied their expressed choice of a state flag, on what basis do the members of the “coalition that included nearly all the House Democrats, including members of the Black Caucus, and a handful of Republicans, many of those in leadership positions” claim a post in a deliberative body of the state’s legislature? Was not every elected member of the Mississippi House of Representatives elected to his or her post by a majority vote? Was not the “handful of Republicans” who stood firmly with the disgruntled anti-American minority elected to their posts by a majority vote? Were not “those in leadership positions” elected to their posts by a majority vote? If the majority vote of the people of Mississippi is null and void and the will of the perennially contrarian minority must supersede the will of the majority, why was not the will of the discontented minority not overruling in those electoral contests like it was in the state flag issue?

    The utter injustice of public state taxpayer supported educational entities arrogantly assuming the authority to nullify a vote of the majority of Mississippi citizens is an intolerable development of epic proportions. The message is now crystal clear. Thanks to a “coalition that included nearly all the House Democrats, including members of the Black Caucus, and a handful of Republicans, many of those in leadership positions” every vote, every law, and every legislature has surrendered popular sovereignty in Mississippi to the disgruntled constantly carping radical minorities. Elections going forward are no more than a farcical delusion, because unrestricted veto power has now been ceded by cowards and fellow travelers to the radical anti-American progressive minority. The legislation passed by the state legislature is nothing more than a joke, because if the radical minority can prevail in the issue of the state flag, it will prevail in every other issue that it chooses to assert its self-identified–and thanks to a “coalition that included nearly all the House Democrats, including members of the Black Caucus, and a handful of Republicans, many of those in leadership positions” now accepted as legitimate–dictatorial rule.
    This sad state of circumstances will continue unabated until such a time as sweeping changes are made in the makeup of the Mississippi Republican Party leadership. So long as Mississippi Republicans are willing to deny majority rule self-government to Mississippi’s voters and to hand over control of the government of the state to a radical fringe progressive minority, citizenship is replaced with the status of subjects and representative democracy totters on the brink of annihilation. The Mississippi Republican Party leadership has expressed in no uncertain terms that the will of the voters is inconsequential and that only the will of a fringe progressive minority is important. Every legislator–Democrat and Republican–should be challenged regarding the cowardly desertion of majority rule self-government. Legislators owe it to the voters to justify why the majority was thrown under the bus in favor of a radical minority that never has had and never will have the best interests of Mississippi at heart. Any legislator who cannot satisfactorily explain how it came to be that persons willing to disregard the expressed will of the majority were elected to leadership positions in the Mississippi Legislature should be voted out as soon as possible. Any legislator who cannot convincingly demonstrate that he or she stood proudly and publicly on the side of the majority with reference to the state flag chosen by two-thirds of Mississippi voters should be voted out of office as soon as possible. The time for obfuscation, sidestepping, and beating around the bush is past. It is time to demand that the will of the majority concerning the state flag take precedence over the objections of radical left wing education administrations and faculties, as well as, America hating, South hating, Mississippi hating dissatisfied dissidents who will never be satisfied with anything less than absolute dictatorial license.