Senate Bill 2509 passed through the Mississippi House of Representatives by a slim 57-56 margin earlier today in Jackson. The bill originally set out to provide tax exemptions on new dorms at Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi, but an amendment was added to deny the tax break to schools who don’t fly the state flag.
“In order for the tax exemptions provided in this section to take effect and be operable, such university must prominently display and fly the state flag each day of the year.” the amendment reads.
None of the eight public universities in Mississippi currently fly the flag on campus. Ole Miss was the first to remove the flag after the well-publicized events from the fall of 2015. Mississippi’s current flag design, which has flown since 1894, is the only state flag remaining in the U.S. that depicts the Confederate emblem.
The amendment to SB 2509 was added by William Shirley, a Republican from Quitman. While the bill passed through the House of Representatives, it will now go to conference committee, where Oxford representative (D) Jay Hughes is confident that the bill will go no further.
“The chairman has pledged that either the amendment will be stripped or he will simply kill the entire bill,” Hughes said.
This bill isn’t the first to address the state flag issue during this legislative session. Three now dead bills have been brought forth during the session. HB 280 attempted to remove accreditation from K-12 schools who chose not to fly the flag. HB 1275 would’ve added the Magnolia design alongside the current flag, and SB 2081 would’ve replaced the current design with the Magnolia design.
Hughes noted that it would behoove legislatures to spend their time on more pressing matters rather than rehashing the same issues.
[SB 2509] actually passed through the house after 30 minutes of gamesmanship,” Hughes said. “I am disappointed that this is what the taxpayers are paying legislators to do, at a time when we cannot fund our schools, mental health, roads and bridges and the schools for the blind and deaf. I take my responsibility more seriously than just putting up political red meat bills when our citizens are truly suffering.”
Hughes voted against the bill while Oxford area representatives Nolan Mettetal (R) of Sardis and Steve Massengill (R) of Hickory Flat voted in favor of the amended bill. No specific date is set for the bill to go before the conference committee.
For the full breakdown of the vote, click here.
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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