- Associated Press - Sunday, December 27, 2015

Debate over the Confederate battle emblem in the Mississippi state’s flag is the top state news story of 2015. The deaths of nine black worshippers at a South Carolina church in June played a pivotal role in spurring a national debate over Confederate symbols. The white man charged in those slayings had posed with the Confederate banner in photos posted online.

Several cities and counties, and two universities, in Mississippi stopped flying the state flag. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has said that if the issue is going to be revisited, it should happen during the November 2016 election.

Here is a look at Mississippi’s Top 10 news stories of 2015 as selected by The Associated Press:


Debate about the Confederate battle emblem in the Mississippi flag reignites after the June massacre of nine black worshippers at a South Carolina church. The white man charged in the slayings had posed with the Confederate banner in photos posted online. Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn said his own faith causes him to see the Mississippi flag as “a point of offense that needs to be removed.” Several cities and counties, and two universities, stop flying the state flag. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant says he respects results of a 2001 election, when voters chose to keep the Confederate emblem on the flag. But, Bryant also says if the issue is going to be revisited, it should happen during the November 2016 election.


Truck driver Robert Gray, who spent little and didn’t even vote for himself, wins the Democratic primary for governor and loses by a wide margin in the general election to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant. A state House race ends in a tie. Five-term Democratic Rep. Bo Eaton of Taylorsville and Republican challenger Mark Tullos of Raleigh draw straws to determine Eaton as the winner, but Tullos appeals his loss to the state House, questioning the way votes were counted. Two other legislative races also are being appealed, with candidates questioning the way elections were conducted. The House and Senate will consider the appeals in 2016.


Hattiesburg Police Officers Benjamin Deen, 34, and Liquori Tate, 25, are killed May 9 during a traffic stop. Nine people are arrested, and the alleged shooter dies in jail in December. More than 1,000 people attend a memorial for the officers. The families of Deen and Tate each receive about $40,000 in donations from the public.


Blues legend B.B. King dies May 14 at his Las Vegas home at age 89, and his body is returned to his native Mississippi for burial. At the May 30 funeral in his hometown of Indianola, King is remembered as a generous man who never forgot his roots even as he enjoyed decades of international fame with hits such as “The Thrill is Gone.” He is buried at the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center.


Voters on Nov. 3 defeat Initiative 42, which would have allowed people to sue to seek adequate funding for Mississippi schools. The citizen-sponsored proposal was a reaction to legislators’ leaving a school budget formula short-funded for 16 of the 18 years since it was put into law. Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Phil Bryant oppose the initiative, saying it could give one judge too much control over a large chunk of state spending.


The Mississippi Supreme Court hands down a split decision in November, allowing a lesbian couple to divorce several months after the U.S. Supreme Court makes same-sex marriage legal nationwide. In a separate case, four lesbian couples file a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn Mississippi’s last-in-the-nation ban on same-sex couples adopting children.


A federal judge sets a 2016 trial for a Mississippi couple accused of attempting to join the Islamic State. Jaelyn Delshaun Young, 20, of Vicksburg and Muhammad Dakhlalla, 22, of Starkville, are arrested Aug. 8 before boarding a flight with tickets for Istanbul. Authorities say the couple contacted undercover federal agents in May, seeking online help in traveling to Syria. Young and Dakhlalla both plead not guilty to charges of aiding terrorists.


College instructor Shannon Lamb is accused of killing his girlfriend, Amy Prentiss, at their Gautier home and then driving 300 miles to Delta State University in Cleveland to gun down professor Ethan Schmidt in his campus office Sept 14. Lamb shoots himself to death as police close in on him in Greenville.


The College Board refuses to renew University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones’ contract, setting off protests by students, faculty, alumni and donors. Trustees said Jones had not adequately addressed their concerns about contract management at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Jones takes a job leading clinical research into obesity at the medical center, and trustees hire Jeffrey Vitter to become chancellor.


Mississippi Power Co. continued construction on its Kemper County power plant, even as projected costs rose to $6.5 billion and more delays in completion made it likely that the company will have to repay another $234 million in federal tax credits.


Associated Press writers Emily Wagster Pettus and Jeff Amy in Jackson contributed to this report.

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