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Georgia Adopts New State Flag With Less Prominent Confederate Battle Standard

Aired January 30, 2001 - 4:15 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: The state of Georgia will get a new flag, one that reduces the size of that controversial Confederate battle symbol. Today's approval of a new state banner could save the state tens of millions of dollars that could have been lost to boycotts.

Joining us now from the Georgia state capitol where you see the old flag flying over the gold dome of the Georgia state capitol is CNN's Gary Tuchman -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joie, since 1956 this is the state flag that has been raised above the state capitol here in Atlanta and throughout the state of Georgia. But its days are now numbered. That's because the state Senate here in Georgia has voted to get rid of the controversial flag.

The flag that's controversial because it has the Confederate battle symbol on 75 percent of its face. A new flag, which will be rolled out very soon, will also that battle symbol, but it'll be confined to one of five small rectangles on the bottom of the new flag. The state Senate has 56 members, 29 of them had to vote for the new flag for it to be approved. It was expected to be a tight vote, but it wasn't close.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeas at 34 and the nays are at 22. This bill, having received the requisite constitutional majority, is therefore passed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: The vote, 32-24. Last week, the House of Representatives here in Georgia voted 94-82 to also approve it. The governor of the state, Roy Barnes, says he will sign the bill perhaps as early as tomorrow. So as early as tomorrow that new flag could be on the top of this capitol building.

Now, new flags are now being manufactured throughout the state of Georgia. The five rectangles on the bottom, one of them is an U.S. old flag. Another one if the current U.S. flag and the three rectangles in the middle are old Georgia state flags: The first one, which was used from 1799-1879; the second one from 1879-1956 and the third one, the one that's used now. It's end date will be 2001. Senate opponents of this new flag say the old flag does not involve racism. They say this is just a matter of Georgia and southern heritage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SONNY PERDUE (R), GEORGIA STATE SENATOR: I'm casting my vote today against this change on behalf of the hard-working, honest, god- fearing people in my district who you will not see at a protest, you will not see in a hate group. They're too busy raising their families, going to work, and producing the taxes that we in this building like to expend. That's who I'm representing today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: Just moments ago, the governor of the state, Roy Barnes, spoke to reporters. Georgia facing the possibility of economic boycotts if it did not change its flag. The governor had to twist some arms to help get this result.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ROY BARNES (D), GEORGIA: This a great time to put this matter behind us. The greatest reason to be for the flag change is not because we avoid boycotts; it's not because that we avoid any type of economic harm. The greatest reason to be for this flag is because it unites all of our people, and puts a matter of division to the side.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: Some opponents of this new flag said this should be subject to a referendum by all voters of the state of Georgia or a legislative committee, but both of those ideas were turned down. So, as early as tomorrow, the state of Mississippi will be the only state left in the United States that has the "Stars and the Bars" as the prominent feature on its state flag.

Joie, back to you.

CHEN: Gary Tuchman, down the street from the CNN center in downtown Atlanta.

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