LINCOLN — A Nebraska lawmaker is seeking to add some pizazz to the current state flag.
State Sen. Burke Harr of Omaha on Thursday said the state’s blue and gold flag could be improved to better promote Nebraska.
It doesn’t help that Nebraska’s flag, which features the state seal, is considered one of the nation’s worst-designed flags.
Now, in the year of the state’s 150th anniversary of statehood, is a good time to consider changing it, Harr said.
“What we’re looking to do is something that more expresses the spirit of Nebraska today,” he said.
Legislative Resolution 3 would establish a task force to design a new state flag and submit a recommendation by the end of the year for the full Legislature to vote on.
The 10-member task force of lawmakers and others would work to find a better-designed flag.
It’s unclear whether the proposal will fly. Past attempts to overhaul the flag have failed.
In 1972, then-Sen. Eugene Mahoney of Omaha sponsored a resolution to study changing the flag’s design. He was quoted as calling the flag “the homeliest in the nation.”
A push in 2002 to create a task force to design a new flag with the public’s help died after protesters called the effort a jab at the state’s heritage.
“There may be some people who are traditionalists, and I understand the concern,” Harr said. “That’s why we’re doing it in an open process. If we decide to keep it, we keep it.”
The Nebraska State Historical Society is neutral on the proposal. The society happily collects and preserves state flags and would do the same with a new one, said Trevor Jones, the society’s chief executive officer.
Harr’s idea sparked online chatter that mostly questioned why senators would spend time on the flag, when larger issues loom.
“Be careful what you wish for,” wrote one commenter. “If it’s anything like our license plates it can get a lot worse.”
Nebraskans have long had strong feelings about state symbolism.
Last year, the state altered a redesign of Nebraska’s new standard license plate amid widespread criticism, including that the design was boring and that the depiction of the Sower on the license plate was lewd.
The change came after The World-Herald reported that the first design depicted a sower that more closely resembled one on a university campus in Michigan than the one atop the State Capitol building in Lincoln.
Nebraska’s current state flag design ranks among the five worst flags of all the 50 states, according to a survey by the North American Vexillological Association, a group that studies flags.
Nebraska’s state flag features the gold and silver state seal on a blue background. The state seal includes a steamboat in the Missouri River, a train heading toward the Rocky Mountains, a smith with a hammer and an anvil, a settler’s cabin, sheaves of wheat, and the state motto, which is “Equality Before the Law.”
Among the criticism: The seal is hard to read, and the overall design is very similar to numerous other official state flags that use state seals and blue backgrounds.
All five of the nation’s worst-designed flags, according to the vexillological association, feature state seals. None of the survey’s top five state flags, however, include a circular state seal.
Despite gaining statehood in 1867, Nebraska didn’t adopt a state flag until 1925, several years after other states. In a list published by the State Historical Society in 1920, 47 other states had already adopted a flag.
“Apparently it didn’t occur to anyone in state government to fly a state flag at the State Capitol building and state office buildings,” said David Bristow, editor for the State Historical Society’s Nebraska History publication.
The state flag was the topic of a story in the publication’s winter edition, authored by senior research historian Jim Potter, who died in August.
Gov. Pete Ricketts, through his spokesman, declined to say what he thinks of the state’s current flag, though he said he generally doesn’t comment early in the legislative process.
Secretary of State John Gale, who is the keeper of the state seal, did not respond to a request for comment. Regan Anson, executive director of Nebraska 150 Celebration, also declined to comment.
Harr declined to offer any personal suggestions of what the new design should look like. But he said it should be simple, using three or fewer colors, and should signify something about the state.
“There are a lot of great ideas out there, and I don’t want to prejudge anything.”
The cost to create a new flag would be minimal, Harr said, and groups could still fly the current flag until it needed to be replaced as a result of fading or wear and tear.