The clock is ticking on a state commission charged with approving a new design for both the state flag and state seal by New Year’s Day.
Generating interest in design submissions hasn’t been a problem. Minnesotans of a variety of backgrounds submitted more than 2,600 entries during the month of October. About 85 percent of those submissions were proposed flag redesigns, and 15 percent were submissions for new state seal designs. Those entries are available for the public to view at: https://serc.mnhs.org/flags and https://serc.mnhs.org/seals.
Some of those designs have borrowed elements from a “North Star” flag design that has long been admired by some in the Minnesota state flag redesign movement that dates back decades. That includes Democrats who pushed the redesign legislation through with their “trifecta” in May. Many DFL legislators and several activists have criticized the state seal and flag as being poorly designed and racially prejudiced toward Native Americans.
Now the 16-member State Emblems Redesign Commission has to wade through the good, the bad and the ugly, as they work over the next month to whittle down the vast pool of submissions into a handful of finalists.
Chair Luis Fitch has said the commission’s goal is to have final design recommendations for the public to weigh in on by mid-December. The commission then has the option to incorporate that feedback, tweak or improve designs if necessary and submit a final product along with a report on its process to the state House and Senate by Jan. 1, 2024. The group has been meeting weekly, via Zoom this fall, but is planning to meet in-person as it reviews designs submitted from the public.
The language of the state statute requiring a new flag and seal design states that as long as that report is communicated to the legislature by Jan. 1, those designs will become official on May 11, the date Minnesota celebrates its statehood.
The commission was formed via legislative declaration this summer after the DFL-controlled House and Senate passed an omnibus state government bill along party lines that included a controversial provision that aims to ditch the state’s official flag and seal in favor of a new design. The new statute instructs the commission to create designs that “accurately and respectfully reflect Minnesota’s shared history, resources, and diverse cultural communities.”
Gov. Tim Walz signed the provision creating the commission into law on May 24. Since then, per the statute, the governor, DFL and Republican caucuses in the legislature and a handful of organizations connected to state government have appointed members to the body tasked with the redesign effort.
Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.