A New Flag for The State of Illinois?
Editor’s note: Participants in the UIS Summer Journalism Camp for high school students asked questions during a press conference with state Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield, at the Illinois Capitol on Wednesday, July 19. Here are the stories the students produced.
Illinois Flag Bill Getting Attention at Statehouse
An Illinois senator sponsored many bills over the past year, but the one getting people’s attention is the adoption of a new state flag.
The bill from Doris Turner, an Illinois Senator who represents the 48th District, which includes Springfield and Decatur, states that the Illinois Flag Commission will be created for the purpose of developing new state flag designs and making recommendations to the General Assembly whether the current flag ought to be replaced with a redesigned one. The bill is on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk, awaiting his signature.
The current flag, which features the state seal with the word “Illinois” below it, has been described as boring, and some people have told Turner that it looks like “a bedsheet with an eagle on it.”
There are other states in the union that have had the same issue; Utah changed its flag on March 21, previously having only the state seal on its flag.
“The flag belongs to the people, the seal belongs to the state,” said Turner.
Turner said her proposal has received backlash, especially from people who do not believe time should be spent on something like a new state flag, as there are other issues that need to be focused on in Illinois.
“We’ll always have issues going on,” said Turner, “And I really feel that our state is intelligent, and we can do more than one thing at a time.”
Senate Bill 1818 requires the chair of the Commission to convene the first commission meeting by no later than Sept. 1, 2023, and report their recommendations to the General Assembly no later than Dec. 3 of the following year. After the report comes to the General Assembly, state lawmakers are given the final vote, the determining factor of whether Illinois gets a new state flag.
The commission would consist of 21 members appointed by the secretary of state, the governor, the president of the Senate, the speaker of the House, and minority leaders of both chambers.
Turner noted many historical ties in the bill. A few include the bill number (Senate Bill 1818) matching the year Illinois was founded. In addition, 21 members of the commission refer to Illinois’ status as the 21st state.
When Turner first introduced the bill, it went to the state government committee, where it was voted out 8-1. It was later approved 39-16 on the Senate floor. The house OK’d it 72-40 before it made it to the governor’s desk. She said the discussion wasn’t a very political matter, except for during debates early in the process.
“It’s not a political issue, it’s an Illinois pride issue,” said Turner.
Turner said the flag commission is a great way to engage people in their state. The commission would give the opportunity for the public to submit designs.
“It really will be an interactive community affair,” said Turner, adding the process would encourage people to research Illinois, its people, and its history. Rules regarding the designs of the flag would be up to the commission.
Tarkan Barutçu, a soon-to-be sophomore at Rochester High School, wrote this article as part of the UIS Summer Journalism Camp for high school students being held July 17-21.
Legislation Creating Commission to Study State Flag Awaits Governor’s Signature
A bill that would establish a committee to investigate the possibility of replacing the Illinois flag has passed both the state Senate and House and awaits Governor J.B. Pritzker’s signature.
Senate Bill 1818 was sponsored by Springfield Democrat Doris Turner and was approved by lawmakers during the recent spring session at the Capitol. This idea has been around since Springfield Republican Tim Butler proposed a similar concept years ago when he was in office.
A constituent of Turner’s suggested that she sponsor it, and with that, the bill passed with strong support on both sides of the aisle and faced only minor Republican opposition.
“It was political during the debate, but I would say that now since it — the legislation — has passed, it has become like a non-political issue,” Turner said. “It is more of an Illinois pride issue.”
The bill, if signed by the governor, would appoint a committee of 21 members to recommend whether to replace the flag and what a new one might look like. The committee would take community suggestions and try to meet the criteria of a good flag set out by experts. The panel would be scheduled to begin no later than Sept. 1, 2023, and send in their recommendations by December 2024. Ultimately, state lawmakers would have the final say on whether to replace the flag.
Turner said that she does not have anything she personally wants on the new flag but believes that it should instead represent all of the people of Illinois. This ties into her belief that there is a disconnect between the people of Illinois and the state government. She hopes that creating a new flag will get people more involved in state government.
Turner also said she pursued the bill because there is very little pride in the Illinois flag. With a simple white background and the state seal in the middle, the flag has been described as boring by some people, Turner said. Expert flagmakers also have ranked Illinois low compared to other states in the U.S. Turner believes that Illinois should have a flag that people are proud enough to put up in their yards.
Opponents to the bill believe the effort is a waste of time that could be used to solve other issues, Turner said. The senator, however, defends the bill by arguing that there will always be issues, but this is something that could have a long-lasting impact on state pride.
Lane Smith, a soon-to-be junior at Athens High School, wrote this article as part of the UIS Summer Journalism Camp for high school students being held July 17-21.