David Martucci, a flag expert, with an original 1901 Maine state flag design. A bill endorsed last week would push off a referendum on whether to change the state flag until 2026. Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald, file

Legislators are eyeing a bill that would delay a referendum on whether to change the state flag for two years.

The existing law requires Secretary of State Shenna Bellows to come up with a new design featuring a pine tree and the North Star on a buff-colored background, and for voters to decide this November if it should replace the current Maine flag.

However, a bill that the State and Local Government Committee endorsed last week would instead push off the referendum until 2026 and create a five-member commission to recommend a design to Bellows.

State Rep. Maureen Terry, a Gorham Democrat and majority leader of the House, said the new commission “would ensure that a diverse perspective is taken into account,” including views from a graphic designer and a vexillologist, a flag expert.

She said the delay “will allow for a better process” in coming up with the best design for a “pine tree” flag, which has proven more complicated than officials initially expected.

Joann Bautista, deputy secretary of state, said the new panel is based in part on the experience Minnesota had in replacing its former flag.


She said that the terms for the new flag are laid out in a law passed last year, but they leave open to interpretation what sort of pine tree should be shown and what shade of buff ought to be used as the flag’s background.

Those are the kinds of issues a commission can work out. Bautista said the panel would make a recommendation to Bellows well before the 2026 election.

Bellows, she said, will likely respond, “Yeah, good job” and approve it.

Both the House and Senate must approve the referendum delay and the new commission or else Bellows will have to hurry to get things in place for a vote this year.

Legislators said the commission will consist of volunteers and won’t cost the state any money.

The five members will include Bellows or her designee, the state archivist, a flag expert, a graphic designer and a representative of a statewide organization that promotes arts and culture.

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