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Lawmakers to vote on displaying POW/MIA flag at North Dakota Capitol

From left: Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo; Jim Nelson, legislative director for the North Dakota Legislative Veterans Council; and Rep. Pat Heinert, R-Bismarck, worked on a bill to display the POW/MIA flag daily in front of the state Capitol. Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK — North Dakota lawmakers will vote this week on a bill that would require the POW/MIA flag to be displayed daily in front of the state Capitol.

Jim Nelson, a Vietnam War veteran who advocated for the flag to be displayed, said honoring prisoners of war and service members who are missing in action is a daily reminder of the price of freedom.

“In front of the Capitol, it signifies the state’s recognition that we still have POWs out there, there’s still MIAs out there,” said Nelson, legislative director for the North Dakota Veterans Legislative Council. “The flag is meant to fly until the last POW or MIA comes home.”

Rep. Pat Heinert, R-Bismarck, the primary sponsor of the bill, said the idea for the legislation came from his constituents.

“I think it’s one of the best things we’ve talked about this session,” Heinert said. “I think it’s important that we recognize and continue to recognize the people who gave or could be still out there giving.”

House Bill 1056 went through various amendments and six House-Senate conference committee meetings before lawmakers agreed on the logistics for displaying the flag.

Under a version of the bill approved unanimously Tuesday, April 23, by the conference committee, the state would be required to display the POW/MIA flag in front of the Capitol. The flag could be displayed either under the American flag or on a separate flag pole.

In addition, the bill puts into law that the flag is to be displayed in front of the All Veterans Memorial and on the east side of the Heritage Center, locations where it is already displayed.

An amendment approved by the conference committee adds an emergency clause, which means the legislation would take effect immediately after it’s approved by both chambers and signed by the governor.

Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo, chairman of the conference committee, said he’s hopeful a flag-raising ceremony could be scheduled later this week or early next week.

Nelson, who has an honor guard on standby for the ceremony, said the first flag will be donated.

“So it’s not costing the state a dime,” Nelson said.

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