JEFFERSON CITY — The march to return the Confederate battle flag to two Missouri memorials moved one step closer to its goal Wednesday.
The Senate Agriculture Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would enhance the responsibilities of the Missouri State Park Board and would grant that board the power to raise the flags. The 8-0 vote passed the bill onto the full Senate for debate.
Last week, park board member Ed Stegner predicted 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 became snarled in a controversy over the flags during his presidential campaign.
The authority to raise the flags again now rests with Gov. Matt Blunt.
Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, is a member of the Agriculture Committee. He voted for the bill.
“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 certainly seem to me to be appropriate. I do not think it would be appropriate for it to be flying over the state Capitol.”
The bill carries no new expenses.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, expects the bill to win Senate approval.