Bill Replacing 'Confederate Flag Day' with 'Arkansas Day' Fails Senate Committee
A bill that would have replaced the state’s existing Confederate Flag Day with a newly-created Arkansas Day failed in a Senate committee Monday.
House Bill 1916 fell one vote short of the needed five in the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee to advance to the full Senate. Members voted 4-3 for it, with one member not voting.
The bill, which passed in the House over a week ago with a vote of 80-7, would have replaced Arkansas’ Confederate Flag Day, which occurs the Saturday before Easter Sunday each year, with Arkansas Day.
In presenting the bill to the Senate committee, Rep. Austin McCollum, R-Bentonville, spoke on the origins of Confederate Flag Day and how it was not established right after the Civil War, but instead was passed in the late 1950s during the civil rights movement. He also responded to claims that removing Confederate Flag Day would be "erasing history."
"I would point you specifically to the language of the bill, which says Arkansas Day shall be a day to reflect on the rich history. So it says right there, to reflect on the rich history, national treasures, diverse cultures, unmatched hospitality, shared spirit, and human resilience that makes the people of the state," McCollum said.
11 people spoke against the legislation Monday. Among them was Kay Tatum, Arkansas Society president of the National Society Daughters of Colonial Wars, who said she was speaking on behalf of 24 lineage societies.
"This day is uniquely southern. It does not honor generals. It does not honor battles. It serves as a reflection of the southern people and the poverty, hardships, sacrifices, tragedies and atrocities of war that our ancestors endured," Tatum said.
Many others opposed to the bill said the removal of Confederate Flag Day is disrespectful to those soldiers and erases history. Sen. Bob Ballinger, R-Ozark, told attendees it was their responsibility to teach or preserve history and they would have that ability under an "Arkansas Day."
"My underlying message is that if you want heritage to be taught, then you need to go out there and do the work associated with communicating it and don’t lean on the state to take care of that for you," Ballinger said.
He also said that while many in his district see Confederate Flag Day as a symbol of heritage, a "majority of the public" see the flag associated with racism. The bill will likely not be brought up again for a vote as the 2021 legislative session is slated to adjourn on Tuesday.