Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

March 10, 2023
Tooele residents at forefront of flag fight

Citizen group seeks to put flag change on a ballot  

Utah has a new flag — almost.

The Utah Senate gave their approval to House amendments to Senate Bill 31, State Flag Amendments, on March 2, paving the way for the bill, which defines a new state flag, to go the governor’s desk for his signature.

Gov. Spencer Cox served on the Utah State Flag Task Force that recommended the new flag.

But, a group of eight citizens, including two from Tooele County, filed with the Lieutenant’s Governor’s Office to collect signatures on a referendum petition to put the flag change bill on a ballot so voters can decide the future of the Utah state flag.

Chad Saunders, Stansbury Park, and Whit Cook, Grantsville, both active members of the Tooele County Republican Party, are sponsors of the Utah Flag Referendum.

Saunders said he believes there is a “disconnect” between voters and the Legislature on the flag issue.

“People have said they don’t like this (the flag change),” Saunders said. “I’ve spoken directly with legislators and told them people don’t want this.”

Saunders likened the flag change to the 2019 tax reform package when the Legislature met in a special session in December 2019 and passed a tax reform package. People quickly organized to collect enough signatures to put the tax change on the 2020 ballot, but when the 2020 legislature started the legislature immediately repealed the tax reform.

Cook said it’s about the process for him.

“It (the new flag design) is not bad,” He said. “It’s very recognizable; it has lots of symbolism; it would make a great logo. I’m not ready for the trade off — it’s like we have to lose our identity to find out identity.”

Cook doesn’t think most people even knew the state was making a change to the flag.

“Now that they’re hearing about it, they’re saying they don’t like it,” he said. “Sen. Dam McCay (sponsor of SB 31) has said several times ‘this is the people’s flag.’ Let’s put it up for a vote of the people, if it is the ‘people’s flag’ it will win their support and the vote will give it more credibility.”

The proposed new flag has a bold blue section on the top with a red section on the bottom a center white strip with jagged edges separates the blue and red with a blue hexagon with a gold border and a gold beehive with a white five-point star below the beehive occupying the center of the flag.

The new flag was the culmination of a process that started in 2020 with the passing of a bill that created the Utah State Flag Task Force — a group that included the governor, lieutenant governor, three state senators, three state House members and the director of the Utah Department of Cultural and Community Engagement. The task force was charged with developing guidelines and ultimately recommending either a new or revised state flag.

McCay told House and Senate committees during the 2023 general session that the task force received 3,200 flag suggestions from the public, 2,500 suggestions from students and another 1,800 comments and ideas from the public.

McCay described the old state flag as “a seal on a blue background” that makes for a poor design on clothing like T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats.

“We have a branding problem,” McCay said. “Utahns don’t wear it.

“According to the website “More than a flag,” which is managed by the Department of Cultural and Community Engagement,  “The idea of creating a new flag isn’t an exercise in wokeness or about canceling history. Instead, the proposed new design draws upon symbols in Utah’s state seal and residents’ submissions and suggestions. The aim was to create a design that’s easier to reproduce and recognize at a distance, a design that Utahns can rally around. And to create a new state flag design that more Utahns will be proud to display.”

The referendum sponsors have seen a lot of support, Saunders said. Their Facebook page “2023 Utah Flag Referendum” garnered almost 2,500 followers in four days without any promotion, according to Saunders.

The Constitution of the State of Utah vests legislative power in the state legislature and the people of the state of Utah, providing that the people may require any law not passed by at least two-thirds majority of the state legislature to be submitted to voters as provided in statute.

SB 31 initially passed the Senate 18-10 and the House 40-35. Referendum supporters couldn’t wait to se eif Cox signs the bill. State statute requires that a referendum be filed with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office within 5 days after the end of the legislative session.

Saunders said supporters of the Utah Flag Referendum have until April 12 to collect around 136,000 valid signatures of Utah voters. They also have to meet a minimum required number of signatures in 15 of 29 state Senate districts.

Tim Gillie

Editor at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Tim has been writing for the Transcript Bulletin since October 2017. In February 2019 he was named as editor. In addition to being editor, Tim continues to write about Tooele County government, education, business, real estate, housing, politics and the state Legislature.A native of Washington state and a graduate of Central Washington University, Tim became a journalist after a 20 year career with the Boy Scouts of America.

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