LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- An Arkansas House panel on Wednesday tabled a bill removing the Confederate designation from a star on the state's flag, creating a new obstacle for the proposal days after the Republican governor endorsed the measure.
The move by the majority-Republican House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee means the flag bill must clear an additional vote before it can be taken up by the panel. The committee rejected the proposal last week.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson earlier this week backed the proposal . It wouldn't change the state flag design but would remove language that a blue star above Arkansas' name on the state flag commemorates the Confederate States of America. Instead, the star would recognize the Native American tribes that inhabited the state, including the Quapaw, Osage and Caddo.
Republican Rep. Richard Womack, who called for tabling the bill, said afterward the panel should hold off on considering the bill until it's clear there are enough votes to pass the measure. The panel rejected the bill 8-5 last week.
"The reality is, I don't know that there are any votes that have changed," said Womack, who opposes the bill. "I just think it's unfair to the people to not know when these bills are coming up, especially when they can be emotionally charged like that."
Arkansas has four blue stars on its state flag, and the one commemorating the Confederacy was added in 1923. The other three blue stars represent the three countries that have had dominion over what is now the state of Arkansas: France, Spain and the United States.
Democratic Rep. Charles Blake, the flag bill's sponsor, said disappointed by the bill being tabled, but said he was looking at options including filing a separate bill or having another legislator introduce identical legislation. Blake also said he planned to speak the governor in the next few days about the bill.
"Them not wanting to hear the bill doesn't mean it's going away," Blake said.
Hutchinson on Wednesday repeated his support for the bill and said it's not about denying history, rebutting a criticism from opponents who have compared the idea to removing Confederate monuments. Hutchinson said the proposal is about how the state represents itself.
"It's something that's an affront to a portion of our population, and it's understandably so," he told reporters.
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