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Voters could soon get a chance to decide whether to restore Maine’s original flag, which features a simple pine tree design that has been growing more popular as a symbol of state pride in recent years.

The Senate voted Wednesday night in support of a bill to restore the 1901 flag, but senators are at odds with the House of Representatives about the process for doing so.

The version passed by the Senate would require a statewide referendum on whether to change the flag, whereas the House version would allow lawmakers to have the final say. The chambers will have to work out their differences if the bill is to be sent to the governor in the coming days.

Sen. Timothy Nangle, D-Windham, said the bill had broad support on the State and Local Government Committee, which he co-chairs, and that people across the state have embraced the original pine tree flag design.

“Many Maine residents already approved this design by flying the flag at their homes,” he said, adding that people use its image as decoration in “homes, businesses and even some bars.”

“People have placed stickers on their cars, computers and some wear the flag proudly,” he said.


A majority of senators, however, voted in favor of the amendment sponsored by Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, which would test that theory by putting the proposal out to a statewide vote.

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield, pointed to the lengthy, 90-minute debate in the House, where the measure passed by a thin, two-vote margin Tuesday, as a reason to slow down and put the question before voters.

“It isn’t best for us to be deciding this. This is not something we have accurately polled on. Yet, this is a wholesale change to what represents our state,” Keim said. “I just feel we are being overly ambitious in changing such an important statement of who our state is to just create a new flag without the buy-in of the majority of Maine people.”

The initial Senate vote to pass the bill, L.D. 86, sponsored by Rep. Sean Paulhus, D-Bath, was 18-16, with some Republicans voting in support and some Democrats voting against and one member absent. Brakey’s amendment to require a statewide vote passed 22-12.

Brakey had proposed holding a referendum on the state flag in a separate bill that was voted down by the House and Senate. The fiscal note attached to that bill, L.D. 1069, stated that the budget could accommodate “one ballot of average length” for the general election, but that the referendum could cost an additional $172,000 if a second page was needed because of the number or length of the ballot questions.

The state flag in use now shows the state seal, with a moose resting under a pine tree flanked by a farmer and seaman on a blue field. It was designed by a joint legislative committee.


Paulhus’ bill would replace the current flag with the state flag that was used from 1901 to 1909, which features a pine tree in the center of a white field, with a blue star in the upper left corner.

It’s become the state pride symbol of choice of late on T-shirts, hats and many other products.

The Department of the Secretary of State has said there is nothing in the historical record about why the 1901 flag was changed to the one that now flies from flagpoles throughout the state.

Proposals to restore the state’s original flag design failed in the past two legislative sessions, most recently by a 91-57 House vote in 2021.

Lawmakers already have recommended passing a bill that would replace the standard issue license plate that features a chickadee with a new plate branded with the pine tree and blue star of the 1901 flag. They voted down a bill to make the current state seal description gender-neutral and change one of the men to a woman on the flag.

Gov. Janet Mills has not yet commented on the flag proposal, which faces additional votes in both chambers.

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