Flag law change a mission accomplished for former Vernon Hills village trustee
An amendment to the Flag Display Act signed Friday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker is a mission accomplished for an Army veteran who is a former Vernon Hills trustee.
The change will incorporate federal regulations into state code outlining the circumstances, procedures and appropriate amount of time the U.S. flag should be flown at half-staff.
Effective June 1, the amendment calls for the flag to be lowered in recognition of Memorial Day, the death of a government official, line-of-duty military deaths or other occurences deemed worthy by the governor.
The law gives the governor latitude to order the flags at half-staff but limits the duration a single event can be recognized to 30 days as prescribed in federal law.
"Because the lowering of the flags to half-staff is a more rare event, this honor is more easily recognized and in my estimation, appreciated," said James Schultz, who raised his concerns last December while still a village trustee.
At the time, U.S. flags had been at half-staff per state order for seven months in remembrance of those lost to COVID-19. While acknowledging the coronavirus losses, Schultz argued the long-running practice diminished the purpose of the half-staff rule.
In a letter to Pritzker, Vernon Hills Mayor Roger Byrne said, "Our residents are numb to the gesture, and most do not even know why the flags have been lowered."
The state order was rescinded in April, but Schultz, who did not run for reelection, persevered.
Besides the village board, he was supported by AMVETS Post 66, American Legion Post 1247, and state leaders of those organizations. State Sen. Adriane Johnson and state Rep. Dan Didech, both Buffalo Grove Democrats, sponsored the legislation.
"Flying the flag at half-staff is a meaningful gesture that honors the lives of fallen soldiers, first responders and residents who spent their lives advocating for the values the flag represents," Johnson said Monday. "This law sends the important message that Illinois respects the individuals who served our country through military or public service."
Didech noted the bill had a pair each of Democrat and Republican sponsors in both the House and Senate.
"This is also an example of how bipartisanship is still possible, and that there is still a bipartisan consensus that our veterans deserve our respect and admiration," he said.
Schultz told supporters that while everyone was "saddened by the immense losses" due to COVID, many deserving heroes and statesmen "were not fully recognized by this simple, yet poignant, honor due to the never-ending half-staff order."