Utahns may be able to vote for new state flag on 2022 ballot

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Utah state flag33745385-159532

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Utah may have a new state flag soaring over its mountains and valleys as soon as 2022, and the public gets to choose it, Representative Stephen Handy, (R) Layton, tells ABC4.com.

The tentative plan is that Utahns will get to choose among frontrunners of new flag designs and Utah’s current flag, on the November 2022 election ballot.

“We’d like to put it on the 2022 ballot to let the people vote. We’re still figuring this out if we’re going to give them a choice of three designs and it might just be we keep the old flag,” Rep. Handy explains.

Under the original legislation to create a commemorative state flag and establish the State Flag Task Force, which passed in March, the plan was for the design to be ready by 2021. However, that now seems too rushed, Handy states.

“Right now we’re going to expand the deadline and really be deliberative about it for the next year and a half and get this on the ballot in November of 2022,” he says.

The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Daniel McCay (R) Riverton, and Rep. Handy.

The first State Flag Task Force meeting was held on June 16, just two days after Flag Day. Members of the task force include Governor Spencer Cox (R) Utah, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson (R) Utah, Sens. Jacob Anderegg (R) Lehi, Luz Escamilla (D) Salt Lake City, and Daniel McCay, Reps. Stephen Handy, Robert Spendlove (R) Sandy, and Elizabeth Weight (D) West Valley City, and Jill Love, the executive director of the Department of Cultural & Community Engagement, according to a press release from the governor.

“Utah’s flag should symbolize our values and our ambitions,” Gov. Cox says. “I’m hopeful we can design a new state flag that better represents both our past and our future, and that reflects what makes Utah such a special place.”

Utah’s current state flag features the state seal on a blue background surrounded by a gold circle. The seal itself includes an eagle perched above a beehive and Utah’s motto: Industry. The beehive is surrounded by Utah’s state flower, the Sego Lily.

Utah state flag33745385-159532

“Utah’s flag fails in all regards. It’s old, it’s stodgy. So we ought to retire it to a museum as the historic flag,” Handy told ABC4.com in December 2020 before the legislation to create a new flag passed. “I think we could do a lot better- something more representative of the vibrancy and diversity and the culture of the state of Utah.”

Sen. McCay agrees.

“Utah is a very distinctive state, but our current flag blends in with many other state flags. We can do better,” he says. “The new state flag can be simplified with a design that is both innovative and memorable.” 

At the June 16 meeting, members of the task force set up a framework of goals for the new flag. The Department of Cultural & Community Engagement is providing staffing and some funding for the initiative, Handy states.

Additionally, a public engagement initiative was set up, which will include a website to allow people to weigh in on designs.

“Eventually we’ll be looking at designs, but we’re going to really start with: What are Utah’s values? What are the values of Utah that that are important to us? And from there, we’ll create some kind of guidelines that will help us when we get to the design phase,” Handy states.

The task force has also established several subcommittees to reach out to diverse communities throughout the state and ensure that everyone is onboard with the new design, he says.

“What we want to do is really have a fun and certainly a very transparent process as we look at this,’ Handy explains. “We want to really engage school children and have them really take ownership of this process.”

And though it’s still early in the process to consider flag designs, Handy says he’s already received lots of input and ideas for what the new state flag could look like. When asked what he would like to see on the new state flag, Handy offers an answer true to the state.

“What is a continuing theme, and this won’t be surprising to anyone, but variations on a beehive. There’s a lot of fun variations on a beehive. And everyone’s trying to capture the Alpine climate in the north and the Red Rock climate in the south of the state and trying to incorporate those kinds of concepts and ideas,” he shares.

The task force is scheduled to meet again in August.

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