Fallen Heroes Flag Act of 2016

Floor Speech

Date: May 10, 2016
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. NUGENT. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (S. 2755) to provide Capitol-flown flags to the immediate family of firefighters, law enforcement officers, members of rescue squads or ambulance crews, and public safety officers who are killed in the line of duty.

The Clerk read the title of the bill.

The text of the bill is as follows: S. 2755

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the ``Fallen Heroes Flag Act of 2016''. SEC. 2. DEFINITIONS.

In this Act--

(1) the term ``Capitol-flown flag'' means a flag of the United States flown over the Capitol in honor of the deceased individual for whom the flag is requested;

(2) the terms ``chaplain'', ``firefighter'', ``law enforcement officer'', ``member of a rescue squad or ambulance crew'', and ``public agency'' have the meanings given such terms in section 1204 of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 3796b);

(3) the term ``immediate family member'', with respect to an individual, means--

(A) the spouse, parent, brother, sister, or child of the individual or a person to whom the individual stands in loco parentis; or

(B) any other person related to the individual by blood or marriage;

(4) the term ``public safety officer'' means an individual serving a public agency in an official capacity, with or without compensation, as a law enforcement officer, as a firefighter, or as a chaplain; and

(5) the term ``Representative'' includes a Delegate or Resident Commissioner to the Congress. SEC. 3. PROVIDING CAPITOL-FLOWN FLAGS FOR FAMILIES OF FALLEN HEROES.

(a) In General.--At the request of an immediate family member of a firefighter, law enforcement officer, member of a rescue squad or ambulance crew, or public safety officer who died in the line of duty, the Representative or Senator of the family may provide to the family a Capitol-flown flag, together with the certificate described in subsection (c).

(b) No Cost to Family.--A Capitol-flown flag provided under this section shall be provided at no cost to the family.

(c) Certificate.--The certificate described in this subsection is a certificate which is signed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Representative, or the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Senator, providing the Capitol-flown flag, as applicable, and which contains an expression of sympathy for the family involved from the House of Representatives or the Senate, as applicable. SEC. 4. REGULATIONS AND PROCEDURES.

(a) In General.--Not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Architect of the Capitol shall issue regulations for carrying out this Act, including regulations to establish procedures (including any appropriate forms, guidelines, and accompanying certificates) for requesting a Capitol-flown flag.

(b) Review.--The regulations issued under subsection (a) shall take effect upon approval by the Committee on House Administration of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Rules and Administration of the Senate. SEC. 5. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.

There are authorized to be appropriated for each of fiscal years 2017 through 2022 such sums as may be necessary to carry out this Act, to be derived from amounts appropriated in each such fiscal year for the operation of the Architect of the Capitol, except that the aggregate amount appropriated to carry out this Act for all such fiscal years may not exceed $40,000. SEC. 6. EFFECTIVE DATE.

This Act shall take effect on the date of enactment of this Act, except that a Capitol-flown flag may not be provided under section 3 until the regulations issued under section 4(a) take effect in accordance with section 4(b).

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of S. 2755, the Fallen Heroes Flag Act. The bill before us would allow Members of Congress to honor our heroes with a United States flag flown over this Capitol. These brave individuals include firefighters, law enforcement officers, and members of rescue squads and ambulance crews. The measure gives us the opportunity to express our Nation's gratitude towards those who have answered the call to serve and protect our communities.

Our Nation's flag flown in their honor would also include a congressional certificate signed by both the Speaker of the House and the individual's Representative or the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Senator who is providing the flag for the family.

When most people are running away from danger, our Nation's first responders run towards it. Whether it is a firefighter rushing into a burning building, an EMT responding at high speed to save someone's life, or a police officer pursuing a routine traffic stop, the job puts these individuals in harm's way on a daily basis.

As our local communities know all too well, in far too many cases, brave men and women have paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe in America. I stand here today with my colleagues to thank each responder for their service and dedication to their communities. They answer our calls for help. As an institution and as a nation, it is right for us to remember the sacrifice and honor that these individuals make for America's families.

As a 38-year veteran of law enforcement myself, it is a special honor to be able to stand here today and usher this legislation forward. I want to thank all of those who helped make this possible.

I want to thank the gentleman from New Jersey for his support. We in law enforcement--and I still say ``we in law enforcement''--do appreciate it any time Congress reaches out and does something positive for our law enforcement families, even though it is after the fact.

This is one of those times where, as sheriff, I had to preside over in-the-line-of-duty deaths. As a rookie police officer outside of Chicago, my first year on the job, one of the guys that I went to the academy with was shot and killed. I moved to Florida and became a deputy sheriff and rose up the ranks to sheriff.

One of the things that I always worried about as a father and as a husband was: What am I leaving to my family? How are they going to be taken care of in the future? And what is going on in this country today in regards to belittling law enforcement? Trust me, we make mistakes, and I think that reasonable people understand that; but when you condemn a whole profession, it is unconscionable.

I think this is the type of thing that we need to do. I do appreciate this is very bipartisan in nature and that it is really lifting up all of our first responders. We think back to 9/11, when those firemen and police officers rushed into the Twin Towers and those that lost their lives as others were leaving the towers toward safety. They did the unthinkable, and that is to rush into a burning building. Or they rush in somewhere where they know there is an armed intruder. They do it on a daily basis. They don't ask for much, but we as Members of Congress really stand up for them and their families by this simple act.

This is not a huge, huge thing, but I will tell you what; to a grieving family, it is a small token of the appreciation that the United States of America, this Congress and the Senate, can bestow on a family in their deepest sorrow. It is not going to bring back their loved one, but I will tell you, they are going to look at that flag and remember the fallen and how great a person they were.

So it is not just what we do today; it is really about what has happened. The gentleman from New Jersey talked about the Senate; and Mr. King, from this House, from New York, moved this legislation through. It has been a pleasure to stand here today, to come here today and talk for all those who can't talk for themselves; they can't speak for themselves.

My 38 years in law enforcement was probably the best time of my life because I was actually doing something and protecting people on a regular basis. I can't think of a greater honor than to fly a flag of this Nation over this Capitol and give that to the grieving family of a fallen first responder. Mr. Speaker, knowing that this institution is behind them, so stand the American people.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this legislation. I yield back the balance of my time.