Effort to update the Utah state flag falls short

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Flags from the four corner states show the contact in flag designs, during discussion of one of two bills that could lead to the adoption of a new state flag to the House Government Operations committee, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019.

The Utah state flag can continue to wave proudly without threat of obsolescence after a legislative committee on Tuesday failed to advance legislation to consider new designs.

Members of the House Political Subdivisions Committee deadlocked 5-5 on HB250, which would have created the State Banner Task Force to study and eventually issue recommendations on an alternative image that could fly in addition to the traditional flag of the state.

“We leave the state flag where it is,” said Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, the bill’s sponsor. “The state flag can stay the state flag.”

Handy said the new state banner could be used for promotional purposes, like the flag-themed apparel and memorability common in other states. The Utah flag, which consists of the state seal on a blue background, is less adaptable for commercial purposes and difficult to distinguish from other states’ flag with a similar aesthetic.

“You really can’t see what it is up on top of a flag pole,” he said.

Several members of the committee expressed affection for the current state flag, but were unenthused by the prospect of competing flags or questioned why legislation is necessary when commercialized imagery can be developed by private entities.

“It’s a beautiful flag,” said Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan. “I hope we don’t feel like as a society in order to sell more lids and for a child to be able to draw it from memory, that we would disregard these symbols or that they would be placed in a manner that devalues them.”

Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, would have been the bill’s Senate sponsor if it was approved by the House. He said a new, more modern flag could give Utahns a symbol to demonstrate state pride in other areas of the country.

Under the current flag, McCay said, Utahns traveling outside the state are more likely to wear clothing showing the logo of their favorite college athletic team, which he called the one thing that “divides us more than anything else.”

“Athletic teams come and go,” he said. “This is something that puts us all together.”

Because the committee ended in a tie vote, HB250 lacked the necessary majority to advance to the full House.

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