Amendment would force MSU, USM to fly state flag for tax exemption

JACKSON, Miss. — The flag debate was reignited in Mississippi on Wednesday as the state House passed an amendment requiring all state-funded universities to fly the state flag.

Bill 2509 was originally passed by the Senate saying student housing on the Mississippi State University and University of Southern Mississippi campuses would not be taxed by the state.

Once the bill reached the House, Representative William Shirley added an amendment saying, “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 Clarion-Ledger reported lawmakers voted 57-56 to send the measure back to the Senate for approval.

Mississippi State University recently took down the flag as part of an “evolving process” that included students and the administration, said Chief Communications Officer and Director of Public Affairs Sid Salter.

“This debate began 15 years ago, then renewed in 2015 after the South Carolina shooting and continued until last May. All a process. All and evolution.”

Around the same time, Southern Mississippi President Rodney Bennett released a statement saying they too had taken down the flag.

“I have chosen to raise American flags on all University of Southern Mississippi flagpoles to remind the University community of what unites us. We have all chosen to work, study and live in a country in which debates like those around the state flag of Mississippi can take place and ideas can be civilly expressed and advanced. While I love the state of Mississippi, there is passionate disagreement about the current state flag on our campuses and in our communities. I am looking forward to a time when this debate is resolved and USM raises a flag that unites us.”