Legislators – who were expected to pack up and head home from Jackson Friday – will continue their work through the weekend, and the controversial Mississippi state flag could be one of the items they act on before they end their session.
Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker said on Twitter Thursday night that the city’s state House of Representatives delegation is “united and ready to vote to change” the flag, which prominently features the battle emblem of the Confederacy.
Kent McCarty, who represents the Lamar County-based House District 101, previously told Mississippi Today, a statewide newspaper, that he had “no comment” on the future of the flag. On Thursday, McCarty posted on social media that he believed “it’s time for (the Legislature) to lead ... and make a change now.”
“Over the last few weeks, I’ve spoken with hundreds of people across District 101 about this issue,” he posted. “Though still contentious, a majority of my conversations reveal what I’ve suspected to be true: many hearts and minds have changed in the last 20 years. I believe in my heart that this is in the best interest of our state, our people and our future.”
McCarty joins Missy Warren McGee of House District 102, which includes portions of Forrest and Lamar counties, and Percy W. Watson of House District 103, which includes Forrest County, in supporting a legislative change for the flag. McCarty and McGee are Republicans, and Watson is a Democrat.
Democrat Juan Barnett of Senate District 34, which includes portions of Forrest, Jasper and Jones counties, also supports the legislative vote to change the flag.
Republican Jansen T. Owen of House District 106, which includes portions of Lamar and Pearl River counties, also previously provided a “no comment” reply to the Mississippi Today poll about changing the flag. However, on Thursday, he posted on social media his support of legislators changing the flag.
“The current flag does not represent who we are as a people,” wrote Owen. “It does not represent where we are going as a state.”
Larry Byrd of House District 104, which includes Forrest County, also provided a “no comment” response to the Mississippi Today poll, as did Bill Pigott of House District 99, which includes portions of Lamar, Marion and Walthall counties. Both representatives are Republicans.
Joey Fillingane of Senate District 41, which includes portions of Covington, Forrest, Jefferson Davis, Lamar and Smith counties, and Chris Johnson of Senate District 45, which includes portions of Forrest and Perry counties, support a referendum that would allow voters the option to keep the current flag or adopt a new state flag. Both senators are Republicans.
Two area Republican lawmakers, including Chris McDaniel of Senate District 42, which includes portions of Forrest and Jones counties, and Ken Morgan of House District 100, which includes portions of Lamar and Marion counties, have said the current flag should remain.
A two-thirds vote of both legislative chambers is required to suspend the rules to even consider a bill that would change the flag, according to a report by Mississippi Today. The report adds that if the rules are suspended, a simple majority vote of each chamber is needed to change the flag.
The report noted that “both sides are close to having the necessary votes.”