Pine Belt lawmakers react to historic vote on state flag

Pine Belt lawmakers react to historic vote on state flag

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - It was a historic day Sunday as the Mississippi House of Representatives voted 91-23 and the state Senate voted 37-14 in favor of changing the state flag.

WDAM spoke with lawmakers in the Pine Belt who voted for and against the bill to get their reaction on the change.

State Sen. Joey Fillingane explains why he voted against the bill.

“I simply made a promise and a commitment to my folks in District 41 that if this issue came up again, since they had already voted on it once in 2001, that I would give them that option again,” Fillingane said.

Now a committee must be created to place several new versions of the flag on the ballot in November.

State Sen. Chris McDaniel, who also voted against the bill, says that’s not enough.

“It’s the type of issue that belongs to the people, not to us,” McDaniel said. “I didn’t think it was fair for us to take that issue away from the people. They have a right to vote. We should have respected that right to vote, but yesterday we did not do that. I thought that was the wrong decision.”

State Rep. Missy McGee and Sen. Juan Barnett, who both voted for the change, see things differently.

“It is the legislature’s place to pass laws and in 2001, I believe the legislature advocated its responsibility in taking a stand on this issue, and now I believe this legislature took the responsibility back,” McGee said.

“In 2001, I think the legislatures should have done what the legislature did in 1894 and that is they agreed to rectify it,” Barnett said. “It wasn’t a referendum by the people, they didn’t ask the people to do it.”

McGee, like Fillingane, followed her campaign promises with her vote.

“Well, since I had first ran for office in 2017, I have said that I believe our state flag needed to be changed,” McGee said.

Barnett offered his reasoning for why he voted for the bill.

“I took that vote because I want to live in a country that I can call united, but I also want to live in a state that I can call united,” Barnett said.

All of the legislators WDAM spoke with felt they voted the way their constituents felt was right.

“I had constituents that would have preferred a new design, only a few, but their stance was let the people vote,” McDaniel said.

“The people of my district, District 102, have been very supportive in encouraging me to vote to change the flag,” McGee said.

The next version of the Mississippi state flag must include the words “In God We Trust” and the people will get to select from several options at the ballot in November.

Copyright 2020 WDAM. All rights reserved.