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Utah is one step closer to getting a new state flag

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Merrilee Gasser

(The Center Square) – Utah lawmakers are moving forward with legislation to give the state a new flag.

Members of the Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee voted Wednesday to recommend Senate Bill 48 to the full Legislature.

The draft legislation does not include any new appropriations. Sen. Daniel McKay, R-Salt Lake City, who sponsored the bill, told the committee the flag that flies at the capitol is already replaced every few weeks due to wear and tear.

If the Legislature approves the new flag design, the current flag will become the ceremonial state flag, which would be displayed on state property at the discretion of the governor during certain occasions including holidays, commemorative periods, oath ceremonies, funerals, visits from government officials or dignitaries, or other specific events, according to the bill.

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The design put forth for the new flag came after over 3,200 submissions from the public, plus more than 2,500 submissions from students, said McKay. Over 44,000 people from 29 counties covering 90 percent of Utah zip codes responded to a survey of the 20 semifinalist designs, said Serena Ergot, the Director of Marketing and Brand for the Department of Cultural and Community Engagement.

The proposed design has a beehive in the center, under which is an eight-point star representing the eight federally-recognized Native American Tribes of Utah. The bottom of the flag is a horizontal red stripe. The top is dark blue, where the white middle line rises to form the shape of a mountain with five peaks.

According to the bill, the blue represents Utah’s dark blue skies, the red represents perseverance and the red rocks of Southern Utah, and the beehive represents industry and community.

Rep. Michael Peterson, R-Cache, brought up concerns voiced by constituents who he said are worried replacing the flag is a part of “woke culture” trying to “remove all memories of history.”

“How do you respond when people say that to you?” asked Peterson.

“I would love to introduce them several of our friends in Salt Lake City who do not feel that I am the most woke person,” McKay replied. “I appreciate the woke credentials. That being said, I think we’ve been pretty clear about how we’ve tied the existing flag and the symbols from our existing flag into this flag here. I don’t see much cancellation.”

Later in the meeting, McKay said one of the problems with the existing flag is the design requires a lot of explanation.

Rep. Stephen Handy, who chairs the committee, said the majority of constituents in his area that he has spoken with were not in favor of changing the state flag.

“The last few months I’ve spent a lot of time knocking on doors and I’m surprised at the number of people who brought this issue up,” said Handy. “I just have to say not one has been supportive, not one. They are concerned about losing our history.”

McKay said he didn’t feel anyone could look at the proposed flag design and feel there was a denial of the state’s pioneer heritage, American heritage, or an ignoring of the Native American population.