The state has no plans to phase out specialty car tags featuring the Hospitality Flag.
However, officials say the tag likely could go away, with the banner not in contention to be the next state flag.
“It will continue in circulation until people stop buying it, which I imagine they will when a new flag is chosen,” said Mississippi Department of Revenue spokesman Jacob Manley.
The tag features the design formerly known as the Stennis Flag. The flag was designed by Northsider Laurin Stennis and has long been backed as an alternative to the previous banner, which features the Confederate battle emblem in the upper left corner.
Stennis’ design had been so popular that Gov. Phil Bryant signed legislation in April 2019, allowing the flag to be featured on a specialty car tag.
Specialty tags come with an additional $33 fee, on top of the annual license plate renewal or purchase fees. Twenty-four dollars of every tag sold goes toward the Two Mississippi Museums.
Since its inception, 1,735 Hospitality Flag plates have been purchased or renewed, and $57,629 has been distributed to the museums, Manley said.
It is the 78 out of 329 active specialty tags in the state, in terms of sales.
“It certainly helps. Every little bit helps,” said Joey Roberts, finance director for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH).
The Two Mississippi Museums, which include the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and Mississippi History Museum, fall under MDAH’s prevue.
“Obviously, it’s nice to have the proceeds from the tag sales. Without the revenue source, we’ll have to look at other revenue sources to cover the cost of maintenance,” Roberts said.
The revenue could be especially important this year, as the museums, like other entities in the state, deal with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the museums closed March 13 to July 7, ticket, gift shop and café revenues dried up, as did proceeds from facility rentals. Through mid-June, “we experienced about a $370,000 loss in revenue compared to the same months in 2019,” MDAH Director of Public Relations Michael Morris said. “The numbers are down.”
Since reopening, attendance figures have yet to bounce back to pre-outbreak numbers, in part, because of social distancing and building capacity rules still in place.
Meanwhile, the 2021 operating budget for the two museums is $1,469,598, about $150,000 less than the current fiscal year.
During the 2020 session, lawmakers retired the previous state standard and set up the Mississippi Commission to Redesign the State Flag. Nearly 3,000 proposals were submitted. The commission chose the winning design on September 2. It will be placed on the November 3 ballot for consideration. If a majority of voters approve it, the design will become the official state flag.
Stennis opted not to have her design considered by the commission, MDAH Director Katie Blount told the Clarion-Ledger.