JACKSON, Miss. (AP) â€” Efforts to rid the Mississippi state flag of its the Confederate battle flag have black lawmakers taking the state's lieutenant governor to court.
Lawmakers who want the Legislature to remove the symbol have been invoking a section of the state Constitution that allows them to request that a bill be read before final passage.
Reading a bill can take more than a half-hour.
Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, who presides over the state Senate, refused to allow senators to have budget bills â€” 110 of them â€” read before votes this weekend, and a group of lawmakers obtained a temporary restraining from a chancery judge.
The judge, Hinds County Chancellor Denise Owens, ruled that Tuck was violating the constitutional rights of senators by not allowing the full bills to be read.
A hearing was scheduled this afternoon, but Attorney General Mike Moore asked the state Supreme Court today to set aside Owens' decision. There was no immediate ruling from the Supreme Court.
Tuck would not comment on Owens' order and said in a statement only that she had consulted with Moore. There was no indication whether Tuck would attend the hearing or allow lawyers to represent her.
State Sen. Robert Johnson, a black Democrat, said the lieutenant governor, also a Democrat, could be found in contempt of court.
The state flag has the design of the Confederate battle flag â€” red background and blue diagonal stripes containing 13 white stars â€” 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.
In Jackson, the predominantly black city council last month banned any version of the Confederate flag from its chambers. And on the Gulf Coast, there has been a dispute over including the so-called Rebel flag at a beach display.
The current legislative session is scheduled to end Sunday. One legislator, fearing the session would end without any action on the flag issue, tried to hold up weekend budget work by having the 110 budget bills read aloud.
House Speaker Tim Ford ruled that the proposals were conference reports, not bills, and did not have to be read. Black representatives then slowed work on budgets with speeches, questions and complaints about Ford's decision.
Tuck halted the session for more than two hours before ruling as Ford had, that the proposals were not bills.