House panel rejects plan for new South Dakota flag
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) – A South Dakota House panel rejected a proposal Monday to change the state flag after opponents said they are not ready to abandon a design that’s changed little in more than a century.
The bill was sponsored by more than 80 of the Legislature’s 105 House and Senate members, but it lost support in the past two weeks as lawmakers were bombarded with phone calls and emails urging them to leave the flag alone, committee members said.
The measure’s main sponsor, House Democratic Leader Bernie Hunhoff of Yankton, said the current flag does not do enough to promote South Dakota because it consists of the official state seal on a blue background. The state flag should have a more recognizable design that promotes South Dakota, he said.
“We need a flag of the future, a flag for future generations,” Hunhoff said.
But Rep. Brian Gosch, R-Rapid City, said he sees no reason to modify the flag, which has remained mostly unchanged for decades.
“I’m just not sure it’s a good idea to throw away history just because someone thinks they have a better idea,” Gosch said.
Hunhoff’s bill originally proposed to replace the current flag with a new design done by Spearfish artist Dick Termes, who is known for painting spheres. Termes’ design features a Native American medicine wheel surrounded by sunshine rays on a sky-blue background.
Before the State Affairs Committee killed Hunhoff’s bill Monday, the panel allowed Hunhoff to change it so it would have set up an appointed commission to seek proposals and recommend a new design. The 2013 Legislature would have decided whether to accept the recommendation.
The committee still voted 7-4 to defeat the measure.
South Dakota gained statehood in 1889 but had no flag until 1909, when a flag was adopted with a blazing sun on one side and the state seal on the other. The flag was changed to include only the seal in 1963.
The flag now features the seal, which includes a farmer plowing, a smokestack resenting the mining industry, and depictions of the Missouri River and the Black Hills. Around the seal are the phrases “South Dakota” and the “Mount Rushmore State” on a blue background.
Termes, who said he gets $20,000 for one of his spherical paintings, said he would donate his proposed new design for free if the state decides to adopt a new flag. South Dakota should pick a new flag because the current one is not easily recognized as a symbol of the state, he said.
Secretary of State Jason Gant urged the panel to keep the current flag, which he said represents the state’s history and is recognized by people across South Dakota.
“I think the state flag is pretty fine the way it is,” Gant said.
John Moison, an artist and retired state worker, said the current state flag should be retained because South Dakota troops have fought under it in all wars since at least World War II.
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