S.1877 – A Resolve Providing for the Creation of a Special Commission Relative to the Seal and Motto of the Commonwealth, passed overwhelmingly at about 4:00 a.m. on January 6th, 2021, the last day of the 191st Legislative Session.
The special commission missed its original reporting deadline of October, 2021, for recommending changes to the flag and seal. Not all seats on the 19-member commission had been filled by that deadline; the commission did not start meeting in earnest until November of 2021.
Now the special commission, which includes six Indigenous leaders from the Wampanoag, Nipmuc, and Massachusett nations, is working toward a new deadline of December, 2022, and may extend that deadline even further… until March 31st, 2023.
The commission is charged with recommending changes to the flag, seal and motto back to the legislature, along with recommendations for an educational program on the history and meaning of the flag, seal and motto.
The language of the enabling legislation appears below:
Revised Legislation to Change the Mass Flag and Seal
This bill would establish a special commission for the purpose of examining the seal and motto of the Commonwealth to determine that they accurately reflect the historic and contemporary commitments of the Commonwealth to peace, justice, liberty and equality, and to spreading the opportunities and advantages of education.
New legislation to Change the Mass Flag and Seal filed in the Massachusetts Senate by Senator Jason Lewis (D-Fifth Middlesex) and in the House by Representatives Lindsay Sabadosa (D-First Hampshire) and Nika C. Elugardo (D – 15th Suffolk)
MA Senate Bill: S.2848
Resolved, That there shall be a special commission to: (i) investigate the features of the official seal and motto of the commonwealth, under sections 2 to 6, inclusive, of chapter 2 of the General Laws, including those features that may be unwittingly harmful to or misunderstood by the citizens of the commonwealth; and (ii) examine and study the seal and motto of the commonwealth to ensure that they faithfully reflect and embody the historic and contemporary commitments of the commonwealth to peace, justice, liberty and equality and to spreading the opportunities and advantages of education.
The commission shall make recommendations for a revised or new design of the seal of the commonwealth and a revised or new motto of the commonwealth and shall make recommendations for an educational program on the history and meaning of the seal and motto.
The commission shall consist of: the executive director of the commission on Indian affairs or a designee; 5 members appointed by the commission on Indian affairs who are lineal descendants of tribes with a historical presence in the commonwealth; the executive director of the Massachusetts historical commission or a designee; the executive director of the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities or a designee; the executive director of the Massachusetts cultural council or a designee; the house and senate chairs of the joint committee on state administration and regulatory oversight; and 4 members appointed by the governor who shall have relevant cultural and historical expertise. The members shall select a chair and vice chair of the commission.
Not later than October 1, 2021, the commission shall submit a detailed report with its proposals and recommendations, along with drafts of legislation necessary to carry out its recommendations, to the clerks of the senate and house of representatives, the joint committee on state administration and regulatory oversight and the governor. The clerks of the senate and house of representatives shall make the report available to the public via the internet. The commission shall not receive funds appropriated by the commonwealth; provided, however, that the commission may seek, accept and expend grants or gifts of money and professional, consulting, clerical or other services and supplies from the federal government or any other private or public source in the course of its investigation and study. The commissioners shall be appointed not more than 60 days after the effective date of this resolve. The special commission shall dissolve 60 days after the submission of the report, unless upon a two-thirds vote of the commission an extension is deemed necessary and is ordered to complete the purpose of the commission; provided, however, that the time frame of the extension must be specified in the motion to grant the commission the extension.