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Miss. Leader in Court Over Flag

May 1, 2000

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ A judge ruled Monday that the state’s lieutenant governor violated the Mississippi Constitution by her actions in a flap over efforts to remove the Confederate emblem from the state flag.

Efforts by black lawmakers this year to address the flag have been met with indifference by legislative leaders. To stall the legislative budget process and highlight their concerns, black leaders want bills read aloud before final passage.

Reading a bill can take more than a half-hour and is a long-standing practice to express displeasure with legislative proceedings.

Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, the Senate’s presiding officer, has refused requests for bill readings.

On Sunday, a chancery judge, Denise Owens, issued a restraining order that prohibited Tuck from stopping bills from being read. Owens on Monday ruled that a ``failure to read in full a conference report is a violation″ of the constitution.

Assistant Attorney General Hunt Cole said an appeal will be filed with the Mississippi Supreme Court on Tuesday.

During a hearing, Cole said never before has a judge issued a restraining order against a legislative leader while lawmakers were in session.

``If ever there’s a case in which the court should not get involved, this is it,″ Cole said.

Tuck said Monday was that she did not think the Legislature should get involved in the flag issue because ``right now we have more pressing matters.″

The state flag has the design of the Confederate battle flag _ red background and blue diagonal stripes containing 13 white stars _ in an upper corner. While the flag debate in Mississippi has not taken on the proportions of the dispute in South Carolina, where a boycott has cost the state millions of tourism dollars, it is growing.

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