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Capitol Flag Program would honor military, public safety officers killed on duty

Rep. John Huot, left, and Brad Johnson, executive officer for Minnesota EMS Honor Guard, testify before the House Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Division March 19. Photo by Andrew VonBank

Rep. John Huot (DFL-Rosemount) has a very personal connection to HF1740.

The bill he sponsors would give a U.S. flag flown over the Minnesota State Capitol to the family of military service members who die on active duty and public safety officers who die in the line of duty.

“This bill has a lot of special meaning for me as I am a Gold Star Family member,” Huot said.

He told members of the House Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Division Tuesday that his brother died in Vietnam in 1970. As he presented the bill, a framed, folded flag presented to his family at his brother’s funeral sat atop the testifier’s table.

The division approved the bill and referred it to the House Ways and Means Committee. The companion, SF1659, is sponsored by Sen. Andrew Lang (R-Olivia) and awaits action by the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee.

The bill calls for the creation of a Capitol Flag Program to be administered by the Department of Administration, which would “provide a certificate memorializing the details of the occasion with each flag presented.”

If it has at least 30 days’ notice from an eligible family member, the department would be required to fly the flag on a specific commemorative date. There would be no charge for the first flag requested.

This program would be “a very dignified way to honor somebody,” said Brad Johnson, executive officer of the Minnesota EMS Honor Guard.

A flag that has flown above the Capitol would have a very special meaning to family members of those who have “made the ultimate sacrifice for fellow citizens,” he said.

Chris Guevin, director of facilities management at the Department of Administration, said his department has some logistical concerns about mandates in the bill.

For example, they don’t have the infrastructure to determine whether a public safety officer was officially “killed in the line of duty.”

Huot pledged to address the concerns of the department going forward.

A fiscal note for the bill estimates that 250 U.S. flags and certificates would be requested in the first year of the program, at a total cost of approximately $5,000.

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