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Missouri congresswoman offers first flag-amendment resolution

Phillip Taylor
First Amendment Center

01.15.99

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A Missouri congresswoman last week beat other flag-protection supporters to the punch by introducing her own joint resolution, which, if passed by Congress and ratified by the states, would create a constitutional amendment making desecration of the U.S. flag a crime.

But flag-amendment supporters describe Rep. Jo Ann Emerson's resolution — introduced on Jan. 6 as H.J. Res. 5 — as a tribute to her late husband, former Rep. Bill Emerson. Bill Emerson, who died in 1996, sponsored several flag-protection measures during his tenure.

"It's something of great importance to her district," said Kris Kruger, Jo Ann Emerson's communication director. "It's her way of getting the views of the folks in her district heard."

Emerson's resolution reads: "The Congress and the States shall have power to prohibit the act of desecration of the flag of the United States and to set criminal penalties for that act."

Besides the flag-amendment resolution, Emerson also introduced three other amendment proposals. The first would grant a "right to life" to unborn children, a second would require Congress to present a balanced budget every fiscal year and a third would allow voluntary school prayer.

Flag-amendment supporters say the House will probably ignore Emerson's resolution and will look toward an amendment proposal that Reps. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., and John Murtha, D-Pa., plan to introduce during the week of Feb. 8.

Although their resolution hasn't been drafted yet, it already has 30 co-sponsors, says Julie Pope, Cunningham's press secretary. Pope says the two congressmen expect their joint resolution to have about 290 co-sponsors by the time it is introduced next month.

Pope told free! that the Cunningham-Murtha resolution would be modeled after the one the House passed overwhelmingly in 1997. Although the measure passed the House on a 310-114 vote, it died last October after the Senate failed to get unanimous consent to vote on it.

Although Emerson offered her own resolution last session, she co-sponsored the leading flag-protection measure and voted for it.

Kruger said that will likely be the case again this session.

"Generally, she hadn't pushed her bill that hard in the past," Kruger told free! "If they introduce more legislation, then we'll support it. Congresswoman Emerson is supportive of any initiative to protect the flag."

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