House Commitee Again Fails Bill Changing The Symbolism Of State Flag

Mar 20, 2019

Rep. Charles Blake presents his bill to the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee
Credit Sarah Kellogg / KUAR

Another attempt at changing the symbolism of the Arkansas flag has failed in committee. The House State Agencies and Government Committee voted to not advance the proposed legislation on Wednesday. The bill, sponsored by House Minority Leader Charles Blake, D-Little Rock, would change the designation of the blue star above the state’s name to represent the United States as opposed to the Confederacy. The bottom three starts would represent France, Spain and Native tribes of Arkansas.

During his presentation of the bill, Blake explained the state’s history of changing the meaning of its flag. According to Blake, the current designation of the flag was decided on in the 1920s, 60 years after the end of the Civil War. Blake said changing the meaning of the flag would not erase Arkansas’s history with the Confederacy, mentioning other memorials commemorating the Civil War and the Confederate soldiers who fought for the south. Blake said the new designation would represent a more inclusive Arkansas.

"Our state flag is the largest and most prevalent symbol we can put out to the world. That symbol should be an inclusive symbol. That symbol should be the Arkansas that we all want to be going forward," Blake said.

This is Blake’s second attempt at introducing a bill that changes the meaning of the state flag. His first bill, which would have changed the top star to represent Native Americans instead of the Confederacy failed and the committee tabled it, making it harder to be voted on again. The new version of the bill had bipartisan support and the support of Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Multiple people spoke against the bill, many of them private citizens who objected to removing the Confederate designation. A few were also against honoring Native tribes, who they believe were violent towards Arkansas settlers. Rep. Douglas House, R-North Little Rock, voted against the bill. However, he agreed with a part of it.

"I think your bill is partially correct. I think that the 1922 or 23 General Assembly that passed the law that says this means that, was wrong to tell anybody what  anything means. Mean whatever you want it to mean," House said. "It just says they’ll be four starts, and 25 stars, and a diamond and red and blue and white. That’s all they should have done."

The bill failed by a voice vote and then through a roll call vote, with a vote of 5-9.