Is it American to require someone to buy American?
That was in essence the debate that consumed the Florida House for a few moments Friday when it considered a bill named the “All American Flag Act.”
The measure would require that whenever cities, counties and state government buy state and American flags, those flags must be made in the United States.
But to some legislators, that mandate goes against the entire idea of the red, white and blue.
“Let me tell you what the flag does not stand for: Anti-government, anti-competitive practices, government mandates and wasteful spending for tax dollars,” said Rep. John Tobia, a Melbourne Beach Republican. “So what I ask you to do is support capitalism, support America. Do not support this bill.”
But other lawmakers said that taxpayer money should not be spent on flags made in other countries like China, even though information compiled by legislative staff showed that the vast majority of flags bought by the state are already American-made.
“When I retired from the military, they gave me an American flag,” said Rep. Jimmie Smith, a retired U.S. Army veteran and Republican from Inverness. “The last full honor I will ever, ever be given from our government will be a flag-draped coffin, and God bless, I hope it’s American-made.”
Rep. Richard Stark, a Democrat from Weston, agreed with some other Republicans that criticized the measure. He said that it was a “restraint of trade,” but Stark added that politically there was no way he could vote no.
“I don’t think that you can take any member in this body and say that they are not patriotic, that they don’t love their country,” Stark said. “We are in a position most of us, we just can’t vote against this bill. I’m telling you I don’t like the bill. I think it’s a restraint of trade and I’m voting for the bill. I don’t want to be on the record against this.”
In the end, American-made flags won. The House passed the bill by a 110-2 vote.
The whole question of what’s more American will probably wind up before Gov. Rick Scott, himself a U.S. Navy veteran. An identical bill is moving with ease through the Senate, and only one no vote has been registered against it.