/House leaders say they have half the votes needed to change Mississippi state flag

House leaders say they have half the votes needed to change Mississippi state flag

Robert Johnson of Natchez (House Democratic Leader) said that most of his 45 members would support changing the flag. The bipartisan group’s goal was to get 40 Republican House members to support the effort to obtain the two-thirds majority required to change the flag. The House is made up of 73 Republicans and 45 Democrats. There are two independents. Two vacancies are currently open from Republican-leaning areas. Johnson stated that there are 20 Republicans who Johnson believes would vote quietly right now to change flag. Johnson stated that 20 other Republicans are also on the fence. Whether Gunn allows the issue to be brought up for a vote will likely depend on whether Gunn can get them off the fence. Gunn stated to the bipartisan group that he would be open to bringing the issue to the floor if there were yea votes. The lawmakers were inundated by correspondence from the public after Tuesday’s Mississippi Today article. Gunn started presidering over the House Wednesday morning. His cellphone showed that he had just 200 new emails. His phone had 582 new messages by the time Gunn left the podium, less than 90 minutes after he began to preside over the House. Gunn stated that most emails were related to changing the state flag, an issue that generates a lot passion. Randall Patterson (R-Biloxi) said that emails about the flag are “coming in so quickly you can’t see them.” Patterson estimates that he has received around 1,500 emails about the flag since Tuesday’s news. Patterson stated that “Yesterday they were all against” the current flag. Patterson stated that most of them today look like they support the flag. He said that he isn’t sure if he supports changing state flag. Patterson stated, “Right now, I don’t know what to think.” “I have to do more research about the options.” Patterson said that if the House votes to pass the resolution to alter the state flag, the bill would be sent to the Senate for consideration. Greenville Senator Derrick Simmons, the Senate Democratic Leader, stated that his colleagues are “monitoring” what is happening in the House. Simmons didn’t rule out the possibility that Senate Democrats might attempt to create its own legislation to change this banner in the coming days. Only 16 Democrats make up the Senate’s 52 members, so all would likely support changing the flag. If 52 senators voted, then 19 Republicans would need to vote for the change. Since the 1960s, efforts to change the flag are a state issue. These efforts seem to have gained momentum recently in the midst the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that started nationwide after George Floyd, an African American man was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Floyd had been pressing his knee into Floyd for almost nine minutes. In recent days, thousands of black Mississippians along with their multi-racial supporters marched through the streets. The state flag has been the focal point of many demonstrations. Gov. Gov. Reeves could veto a bill to change the flag. A second two-thirds vote from both chambers would be needed to override his decision. Reeves was questioned by reporters on Wednesday about whether he has received any feedback from the public on the flag. Reeves stated Wednesday that there is “no doubt” a lot of discussion around the flag issue. “That’s an important conversation to have… My stance has been consistent. If the state elects to change its flag, it must be decided by the people and not Jackson politicians. Reeves said, “I believe that the current state flag has been voted on by the people in 2001 and they voted to maintain it.” People might change the state flag in the future. However, that would require a vote by the people of the state. In the meantime, legislators continue to receive correspondence about the issue. Debra Gibbs (D-Jackson) said that she has received numerous calls and emails regarding changing the flag. All of them were in support of it. She stated that public opinion seems to be strongly in favor of the change. Gibbs stated, “I support changing that.” “I believe most people want to see change. They don’t care about what flag is used to replace it. They want it to be changed.” However, Rep. Randy Boyd (R-Mantachie), said that he wouldn’t support changing the flag without a vote by the people. Boyd stated that although the majority of emails from outside my district support changing it, he believes those within my district prefer the old flag._x000D