Utah lawmaker taking another stab at updating the state flag

(Steve Griffin | Tribune file photo) In this July 24, 2017, photo, the Utah state flag waves in the morning sun at the start of the Days of '47 Parade in Salt Lake City. A Utah state lawmaker is leading an effort to redesign the flag.

A Utah lawmaker is renewing his push to update the state flag, with the goal of establishing a design that evokes the same pride and ownership among residents as flags in states like Colorado, Arizona and California.

Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, said his proposal would memorialize the current design as the state’s “historical flag,” while creating a commission to review and issue recommendations on a new “state banner.”

“We want to establish a state banner that would be more hip, if you will,” Handy said, “more with it, more current, that Utahns can have greater pride in.”

Handy’s bill, HB250, was made public this week, and calls for a multiyear process of review and potential legislation. Last year, Handy sponsored similar legislation after speaking with constituents and flag critics, which competed with another bill that proposed a specific flag redesign.

Both bills were unsuccessful, but Handy’s bill was approved by the House before sputtering in the Senate before the 2019 session adjourned.

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) In this Feb. 13, 2019, file photo, flag designer John Martin, speaks about the new Utah Flag he designed, during the discussion of one of the two bills introduced in last year's legislative session. Both failed. Rep. Steve Handy has once again filed a bill to update the state flag.

Handy said he’s not interested in dictating a specific design, but instead supports the creation of a commission to solicit feedback from residents and to explore options based on a series of design guidelines. Flag experts, or vexillologists, generally argue that the best flags use simple, memorable designs that avoid lettering and clutter.

“Hopefully we can bring together a committee and not spend any money,” Handy said, “and just talk about what Utahns want.”

He said his bill would not mandate that the current flag be replaced in all settings, but he expects that over time the new banner would organically displace the historical design, which features the state seal on a blue background.

Multiple states use a similar design, which is sometimes derided by flag enthusiasts as an “S.O.B.” flag, or “seal on a bedsheet.”

“My vision is that eventually, the historic state flag would retire to the museum,” Handy said.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Brad Wilson said he is open to a discussion on redesigning the state flag, but that he does not have a position for or against Handy’s proposal.

“From a certain perspective, I can see some wisdom in looking at it,” Wilson said. “But it’s not something i’m spending a lot of time on.”