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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bill on flag displays revived

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Ivan Lee of Wai'anae, commander of the Sons of The American Legion, Squadron 17, showed up with Old Glory at yesterday's state Capitol hearing on a bill that addresses flag displays in planned communities.

RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Military veterans, indignant over restrictions on displaying the American flag, persuaded the state House Housing Committee yesterday to revive a bill that would allow residents in planned communities to erect flagpoles and fly the American and state flags.

The bill was also amended to prohibit community associations from charging residents any fees for the design and placement of flagpoles.

"We should allow any American to fly a flag in their yard if they want to," Charles Patterson, an Army veteran and director of the American Legion Riders, told lawmakers at the hearing.

The federal Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 prevents community associations from prohibiting flag displays, but community associations can impose reasonable restrictions on the time, place or manner of the displays.

The bill that advanced yesterday allows residents of planned communities to erect flagpoles not just display flags and gives community associations the right to set restrictions on size and location.

Dozens of veterans rallied to make it easier to display flags after Harold Alejandro, an Army and Air Force veteran, complained about the difficulty he experienced trying to fly a large flag outside his home in 'Ewa by Gentry.

State Rep. Rida Cabanilla, D-42nd (Waipahu, Honouliuli, 'Ewa), the committee's chairwoman, had deferred the bill earlier this session after no one came to the state Capitol in person to testify at a hearing.

After an unsuccessful motion by other House lawmakers to recall the bill from her committee last week, Cabanilla agreed to hold a second hearing but said she favored a task force to study the issue of flag displays.

Yesterday, Cabanilla reversed herself again and dropped the task force idea following complaints from lawmakers, who said it was making the bill too complicated.

State House leaders said they will likely waive internal committee referral deadlines so that the bill will come before the full House for a vote and have a chance to cross over to the state Senate next week.

State Rep. Kymberly Pine, R-43rd ('Ewa Beach, Iroquois Point, Pu'uloa), the bill's sponsor, said the many veterans who came to testify yesterday made the difference.

"It became a fight about democracy more than the flag or the bill, and about people not listening, and that's what this whole process became about," Pine said.

Several of the veterans who spoke before the committee talked of the emotional and symbolic importance of the American flag. The bill would encourage veterans to negotiate with community associations on what are considered reasonable restrictions on flagpoles.

Robert Moderow, an Army veteran, said he has a 45-foot flagpole outside his home in Hawai'i Kai that he erected before city restrictions on such displays. Every morning, he said, he raises his American flag as a memorial to freedom and to honor the soldiers who have given their lives for their country.

"I know they are looking down and watching," he said.