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Universities could lose tax breaks over state flag

The original version of Senate Bill 2509 would grant tax cuts to Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi for buildings on campus that are built for affordable housing for students.

Rep. William Shirley, R-Quitman, introduced an amendment to require any school taking advantage of the tax exempt provision to fly the state flag.

The amendment offered by Rep. William Shirley read: “In order for the tax exemptions provided in this section to take effect and be operable, such university must prominently display and fly the state flag each day of the year.”

Currently, none of the state’s universities fly the flag. After much debate Shirley’s amendment passed 57 to 56.

“If the institution does not fly the flag of the State of Mississippi, it will be exempt from this,” said Rep. Steve Horne.

Speaker Pro Tem Greg Snowden said that while he acknowledges there is tension over the state flag, the amendment is not the way to handle it.

“I don’t agree with that approach.. I voted against the amendment last time,” said Snowden. “I don’t think it’s fair to punish the institution, particularly the students, over a decision an administrator made somewhere, and it’s not a state law requiring to fly the flag.”

Rep. Jeff Smith, chairman of the Ways and Means committee, stated from the floor that the amendment requiring the state flag would most likely die in committee. “If anybody thinks this amendment is going to stay in there in conference, the Easter bunny is coming.”

However Rep. Snowden offered another amendment, requiring that a flag representing the state is required, but not necessarily the current flag.

It read: The exemptions from taxation provided for in this section shall not take effect unless the university prominently displays and flies either one or both of the following flags each day of the year: The official state flag as described in Section 3-3-16, Mississippi Code of 1972; (or) The historical Magnolia Flag that was the first official flag of the State of Mississippi from 1861 through 1865 and continued in use as a state flag until 1894, in any of its variations.”

“We’re going to keep rocking this baby until we get it done,” Shirley said.

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