Utah Legislature extends timetable for state flag redesign

The Utah state flag and a commemorative state flag celebrating Utah's 125 years of statehood fly over the state Capitol on Oct. 30. A task force charged with looking at a possible new state flag had its sunset date extended with a bill that passed during Wednesday's special legislative session.

The Utah state flag and a commemorative state flag celebrating Utah's 125 years of statehood fly over the state Capitol on Oct. 30. A task force charged with looking at a possible new state flag had its sunset date extended with a bill that passed during Wednesday's special legislative session. (Carter Williams, KSL.com)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — As the process to redesign Utah's flag heats up, the Utah Legislature passed a bill during a special session this week that extends the timetable for it to be completed.

An amended SB2003 passed the House Wednesday with a 70-0 vote, before breezing through the Senate with a 24-3 vote Wednesday. It makes some modifications for the State Flag Task Force, which was created from a bill during the regular legislative session earlier this year.

The bill extends the term length for every member of the State Flag Task Force one year, to Nov. 30, 2023. The bill also moves the deadline for when the task force proposes 10 possible designs to Sept. 15, 2022 — again, a year later than originally stated. The task force is asked to have a written report about recommendations sent to the Legislature's Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee by Nov. 1, 2022.

Aside from an adjustment 10 years ago to fix an error, Utah's current flag design has mostly remained the same since 1911. It features Utah's state seal on a dark blue background. A bill that passed earlier this year created the State Flag Task Force, which met for the first time in June.

The timeline changes agreed to this week were expected. Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, told KSL.com last month the task force has taken a "slower, more deliberative process" as they have found that there is a lot of interest in rebranding Utah's state flag. They wanted more time to ensure that they come back with a design that the majority of Utahns can agree best captures the state.

"We're hoping to catch lightning in the bottle with this," he added, while appearing as a guest on KSL NewsRadio's "Dave and Dujanovic" last month.

With leftover money from the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts, the task force hired the strategic planning firm Wilkinson Ferrari & Co. to gather feedback. The company is expected to launch a campaign soon to gather more feedback for the task force to mull over.

In introducing the SB2003 Tuesday, Sen. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton, told his colleagues to expect a big update at the start of the upcoming legislative session, set to begin on Jan. 18.

"Just for everyone's excitement, we'll be having a kickoff sometime around the beginning of the legislative session, for the public process in getting input on the new flag," he said.

Handy said the public will be allowed to submit designs at some point next year, as well. With the timeline change, it's expected that Utahns will get to see possible new flag options as early as September.

During Wednesday's House session, Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Murray, asked if Utah's 125th anniversary of statehood flag — currently flying at the state Capitol — would be the new flag. Handy explained that it was once considered an option for the new flag. It will remain at the Capitol through the end of the year but it is not one of the options at the moment.

While it's not one of the ideas right now, he said, it has helped illustrate why there's a discussion for a new flag.

"As wonderful as our flag is up close, you really can't tell what it is up on a big flagpole. But people drive by the Capitol and see (the commemorative flag) flying and say, 'Oh, I get this now,'" he said.

The Utah state flag, top, and the new 125th anniversary commemorative state flag, below, fly atop the Capitol in Salt Lake City on July 13.
The Utah state flag, top, and the new 125th anniversary commemorative state flag, below, fly atop the Capitol in Salt Lake City on July 13. (Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

But what will happen with the current flag? This week's legislation originally called for it to have a new permanent home as the official flag of the state governor. Sixteen U.S. states currently have a governor's flag that is different than the official state flag.

However, multiple representatives were concerned that the designation would leave Utah without a state flag for a time. Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, also questioned that if designating the current design as the governor's flag would remove it from consideration when legislators or Utah voters will vote on a new state flag in the future.

"Seems to me that we should wait and do that until we hear the report from the commission," he said.

Rep. Kay J. Christofferson, R-Lehi, ultimately proposed an amendment that removed the provision before the House voted it on the bill Wednesday. Handy said he was indifferent to the amendment, although he noted that moving the current state flag to be the governor's flag now would not move it out as the state flag.

If the state does adopt a new flag — which would be the result of a question Utahns will see on the ballot in the near future — the current flag may still end up being the governor's flag.

In the meantime, the bill that passed Wednesday states that it will go into effect immediately after a signature from Gov. Spencer Cox, who is a member of the task force, but it doesn't need his signature to go into effect.

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