A law that lets the flag be flown at half-staff at state buildings whenever a Missouri soldier is killed in battle is only a whisk of a pen away.
Senate Bill 806, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Engler (R-Farmington), was truly agreed to and passed the Missouri Legislature on Monday in a unanimous vote (143). The bill establishes a policy to fly the U.S. and Missouri state flags to at half-staff for 24 hours whenever a Missouri resident is killed in the line of duty during military service.
The bill was the first of two of Engler’s bills that were “ Truly Agreed To and Finally Passed.” Two more bills could pass today, he said.
Engler said Gov. Matt Blunt has assured him that he will sign the flag bill into law.
“We don’t know when or where, but I assume it will probably be in June,” Engler said this morning. “I didn’t include an emergency clause, so the bill will go through the vetting process first to make sure there is nothing unconstitutional in it.”
An emergency clause allows a bill to be put into law once it is signed. This bill, as with others without an emergency clause, will take effect in August as long as Blunt signs it into law.
Engler hopes the bill will be signed in his district, preferably at a veterans’ organization headquarters.
The bill requires the Missouri Veterans’ Commission to make ongoing reasonable efforts to find out if any Missouri residents have been killed in the line of duty. The Commission must notify the governor of any such death. The governor then decides the day on which the resident will be honored and will notify the Office of Administration to spread the word to state agencies to lower the flag for a day.
“I’m happy to get this bill through, because you’re not supposed to lower the flag unless it’s an authorized procedure,” Engler said. “People didn’t realize that until last fall, the governor did not have the authority to do this. When Congress gave the governors the authority, we still had to decide how long, who does the notification, and other details.”
Since the war began in Iraq, nearly 100 Missouri military men and women have lost their lives.
“These men and women are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to defend our freedom,” said Sen. Engler. “This bill provides a way to recognize and honor these deserving soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.”
Joe Briley, commander of the Mineral Area Memorial VFW Post 5741 Auxiliary in Leadington, was pleased to hear the bill is ready to become law. However, the deaths behind the honor make him sad.
“It’s a great thing that we honor someone like that,” he said. “When you have a loss like that, it’s terrible. You don’t like to dwell on that.”
Each time the flags are flown at half-staff, it is a signal that the state has lost an exceptional individual, Engler stated.
“This legislation allows us to show that with each Missouri son, daughter, mother, or father killed while serving, we are there to honor them and help mourn their loss, he added.
Engler also has a bill to lower the amount school districts pay to register their bonds. It passed on Tuesday. He expected the legislature today will pass a bill giving Kingston a one-time exemption to the law so they can buy the modular units that comprise the intermediate school. A bill dealing with petroleum storage also could be addressed today, he added.