Should Utah update its state flag? Some lawmakers think so

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(ABC4) — Some lawmakers are pushing for a “rebranding” of the Utah state flag.

If passed, Senate Bill 48 would create a State Flag Task Force to look into creating a new flag to represent the Beehive State.

The bill is sponsored by Senator Daniel McCay and Representative Stephen Handy.

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Rep. Handy says he was approached by constituents three years ago who were concerned about the flag’s appearance.

“I’m a native Utahn, and I never thought about the state flag. It’s just there,” Rep. Handy said. “But as they started pointing out its deficiencies and kind of its old look, I thought this is pretty interesting. Businesses all the time rebrand, so why not have the state flag rebranded?”

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.

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Vexillologists, people who study flags have established standards of good flag design, according to Rep. Handy.

“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,” he said. “I think we could do a lot better- something more representative of the vibrancy and diversity and the culture of the state of Utah.”

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According to Rep. Handy, the bill doesn’t actually call for a new flag, but creates a task force to look into the possibility of one.

Last year, Rep. Handy says he engaged the branding department of the Utah Jazz to take an in-depth look at what a new flag could look like. They presented the ideas to the legislature.

Rep. Handy says the current flag looks like it has been designed haphazardly compared to flags of other states.

“If you look at other state flags like Colorado and Texas and Arizona, they’re absolutely cool,” he said. “Utah’s state flag has taken the state seal and put it on a flag. Some people refer to that as a seal on a bedsheet.”

This is the third year that Rep. Handy has attempted to get the bill passed. With a new governor and administration coming in, it is the perfect time for the public to take a look at it, he says.

However, the bill has faced pushback in the past from those who do not believe that a new flag is worth spending time on, as well as from advocates of historic preservation who think it’s important to keep the current flag, Rep. Handy says.

“Some people have said, “Why are you spending your time on this? This is a waste of everyone’s time.”

The bill also offers a chance for the public to have a say in what the new flag will look like. Rep. Handy says he envisions a website on which both professional artists, as well as the general public, can contribute design ideas.

He says he has had teachers say that they would love to have their students submit ideas for the new flag for a class project.

“So it’s not going to be a perfect design but it could be something thoughtful, and what we want to do is generate public interest and see what the support is out there for considering a new flag for our state,” he said.

The bill itself would create the State Flag Task Force comprised of the following nine members:

  • one member of the Senate, appointed by the president of the Senate
  • one member of the House of Representatives, appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives
  • one individual representing the office of the governor;
  • after receiving recommendations from the Utah Association of Counties, one individual serving in the legislative body of a county of the third, fourth, fifth, or sixth class;
  • after receiving recommendations from the Utah League of Cities and Towns, one individual serving in the legislative body of a city of the first class; and
  • one individual who is a member of a national or international vexillological organization or association
  • one individual representing the Division of State History, appointed by the director of the division;
  • one individual representing the Board of Tourism Development, appointed by the chair of the board
  • one individual representing the State Board of Education, appointed by the chair of the State Board of Education

The task force’s duties would include the following:

  • Convene for meetings
  • Create a process for submission and assessment of flag design ideas
  • Select up to ten flag designs by September 15, 2021 that meet certain requirements listed in the bill, including following principles of good flag design
  • Create a process to gather public input on the top flag designs and select a new state flag.
  • Provide a written report to the Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee and the Legislature by November 1, 2021 about their work and the recommendation for a new flag design.

Members of the task force would not be paid for their participation. Visit utah.gov for the bill’s full text.

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