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Bill requires American-made flags

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ST. PAUL -- Rep. Tom Rukavina walked through the crowd during a Sept. 11, 2001, memorial service and noticed most of the flags were made in China, Pakistan or someplace else other than the United States.

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"If anything should be made in the United States, it should be the American flag," he said.

So began the Virginia, Minn., Democrat's quest to require all American flags sold in Minnesota to be made in this country. And 2007 could be the year he wins.

"I'm positive it is going to pass," he said Tuesday, moments after the Minnesota House Commerce and Labor Committee overwhelmingly passed his proposal.

Under a Republican-controlled House, Rukavina's dream was shot down time after time. Even Republicans on the committee backed his bill Tuesday, although there were questions.

For instance, Rukavina's bill requires that novelties with a flag image sold in the state be made in America. That may go too far, according to Rep. Dean Simpson, R-New York Mills.

"I don't think there is anything wrong with what you are trying to do on the flag part," said Simpson, who has voted against the bill in the past.

Questions remain to be answered before Rukavina's bill reaches a full House vote. For instance, Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, wanted to know if it will cost the state anything to enforce the law. Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Eden Prairie, wondered if the bill would ban flag sales at garage sales.

Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said he fears that flags would not be as readily available if foreign-made ones are banned.

Other states have considered similar bills, but none has passed.

Americans paid $47 million for flags in the wake of 2001's terrorist attacks, with $38 million going to China, Rukavina said. However, he added, there are plenty of American flag makers that can fill the demand.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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