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Confederate flag one step closer to its return

February 09, 2005
By: Ben Welsh
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The march to return the confederate flag to two Missouri memorials moved one step closer to its goal Wednesday.

The Senate agriculture committee approved a bill that would give the power to raise the flags to a park board. The 8-0 vote passed the bill on to the full Senate.

Last week, Ed Stegner, a member of the board, said he thought his peers would vote to return the flags if given the opportunity.

Confederate flags were lowered from parks in Pilot Knob and Higginsville in January 2003. They were ordered down by former Gov. Bob Holden's press secretary, Mary Still, after Missouri Democrat Richard Gephardt was caught in a controversy over the flags during his failed presidential campaign.

Right now the authority to reraise the flag rests with Gov. Matt Blunt.

Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, serves on the committee and voted yes.

"I think it's more appropriate for a park board to be making these decisions as opposed to it getting wrapped up in presidential politics," Graham said. "If you've got a confederate cemetery it would certain seem to me to be appropriate. I do not think it would be appropriate for it to be flying over the state capital."

Before the committee approved the bill, they did make one change. They dropped a provision that would have required an annual inspection of every monument in the state. The new version of the bill carries zero new expenses.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, said he expected the bill to eventually win the Senate's approval.

"We've got a lot of fish to fry before we get to my little piece but as soon as possible," Engler said.

Sen. Maida Coleman, D-St. Louis, was the only committee member not to attend.

Correction: An earlier article about this issue mistakenly noted that Gov. Matt Blunt's spokesman Paul Sloca promised to return a phone call.