- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 19, 2003

ATLANTA (AP) A tiff over dimensions could upset plans for a new Georgia state flag.

Legislation that would clear the way for a new flag is up for a vote Tuesday. The bill doesn't list specific measurements for the flag, but it does define proportions for three stripes and a blue square that encompasses the state seal and 13 stars.

If the proposed flag is created to fit the proportions in the bill, it would end up 3 feet by 6 feet, a foot longer than the standard American flag, said historian Ed Jackson of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government in Athens.

The word "square" is the problem. If the blue field were rectangular instead of square, as in the 1920-1956 flag, the new banner would be the traditional size.

But supporters are afraid to change even a comma of the legislation. If the bill is altered, it would have to return to the House with just two days left in the legislative session.

Black Democrats have promised to try to kill the bill because it allows a referendum that could lead to the return of a flag that has the large rebel battle emblem.

Georgia's flag saga began in 2001, when black lawmakers led a movement to change the 1956-issue state flag that was dominated by a large Confederate emblem. Then-Gov. Roy Barnes pushed a new flag through the General Assembly in less than a week with no public hearings, creating a backlash that figured in his defeat to Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The proposed flag would feature the state seal on a blue field in the top left corner, with three red-and-white stripes and the words "In God We Trust" to the right. It was designed by a Republican and evokes the first Confederate national flag, but it does not include the more-familiar rebel "X," or Southern Cross.

Secretary of State Cathy Cox, who is in charge of distributing flags to government properties, has said her department will have to order flags that meet the bill's exact proportions.

Under the proportions in the bill, Georgia flags for residences would be 3 feet by 6 feet, and those for corporations and government agencies would be 4 feet by 8 feet, Mr. Jackson said. Either way, he said, it would not balance appropriately with U.S. flags that hang in mainly 3-by-5 and 4-by-6 dimensions.

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