SALT LAKE CITY — An effort to possibly “modernize” the Utah state flag didn’t fly well with some senators, even though it did win enough support to move onto further debate in the Senate.
During the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee meeting Friday afternoon, each senator noted that they didn’t look forward to discussing SB48 or outright said they didn’t support a redesign.
“There’re iconic flags all over the country,” Sen. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton said. “A good portion of the top half of the states have a flag with a blue background with their state seal on it. We thought maybe there, with some effort, and with some design input from the public, that we could modernize our flag, and make it so that it adheres to modern vexillology and vexillological principles.”
McCay tried to assuage other lawmakers’ fears, explaining that the bill would only create a task force that would discuss the need for a redesign, if any, and if a redesign was chosen it would adhere to certain restrictions before presenting it to the Legislature for final approval.
“I would prefer that we develop a brand and develop an identity that ties closely to who Utah is, and it’s something that somebody might consider putting on a hat,” McCay said.
The public comments have been split as well.
Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, said he has received many emails requesting a redesign and an equal number along the lines of “Why are you wasting time?” and “Why is the Legislature wasting my taxpayer money speaking of this?”
“That resonates with me. I get that,” said Handy, “But I also think who else is to do it but the people who are elected to represent the people?”
But Sen. Gregg Buxton, R-Roy, voted against the bill, noting he’s heard from more people who do not want a change.
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, and Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, both supported the bill because it was creating a task force and that the Legislature would still have final say on any proposal.
John Hartvigsen, of Salt Lake City and an advisory board member of the Colonial Flag Foundation, called in to strongly oppose the bill.
“I’ve been studying flags for decades,” Hartvigsen said. “I study not only the history of flags and the Utah state flag, but also the ways in which flags are designed and redesigned. The things that (McCay) mentioned, as far as deciding if a flag is a good flag or a bad flag, that doesn’t wash. There is no single set of rules that are used.”
Hartvigsen also said there is nothing wrong with Utah’s banner.
“It’s a bold design, a recognizable design and can be easily seen and understood by observers,” Hartvigsen said. “It is not only a vehicle to teach the history of Utah, but it is indeed history itself.”
Handy later disagreed with Hartvigsen, saying “he’s just wrong ... there are principles that are established.”
Handy said he wants a new flag that will reflect diversity and technological growth and that he and McCay want it to be something that the “younger generation” would pride themselves on wearing.
“We ought to have something that’s more representative. Companies rebrand all the time. Why should a state be afraid of rebranding?” Handy asked.
The committee recommended the bill 3-2.