- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2000

RICHMOND A resolution demanding that Minnesota return a Civil War battle flag captured from the Virginia 28th Infantry Regiment at Gettysburg passed overwhelmingly in the Virginia House yesterday, and will now be presented to the governor and legislature in Minnesota.

Another resolution, to designate April 24 Armenian Martyrs Day, passed after an hourlong debate. The day will recognize between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians the resolution says were killed at the hands of the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923.

The Armenian resolution has prompted thousands of phone calls and e-mails from Armenians and Turks inside and outside Virginia.

Armenians wanted the resolution as recognition of what they called "genocide" at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, while Turks and the current government of Turkey argue there was no concerted effort to kill Armenians, thus no genocide.

The resolution passed on a voice vote and now goes back to the House, which must approve removing the word "genocide."

The House yesterday also passed a resolution demanding the return of the Civil War flag 94-2. Delegate Kristen J. Amundson, Fairfax Democrat, abstained, and Delegates Marian Van Landingham, Alexandria Democrat, and Mitchell Van Yahres, Charlottesville Democrat, voted against it.

The flag was lost when a private from the Minnesota 1st Infantry captured it from a wounded Virginia lieutenant at Gettysburg. The Minnesota soldier turned the flag over to the War Department after the war, receiving a Congressional Medal of Honor in return, in accordance with federal law.

But he borrowed it, never returning it to the government. It ended up with the Minnesota Historical Society upon his death.

A 1905 federal act returned all of the flags in the War Department to the originating states. But the 28th's flag was never returned, and still lies in preservation with the historical society.

Still, Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura has said he doesn't see any need to give the flag back and considers it the spoils of war.

But lawmakers said that may not be his decision.

"We're not asking for anything extraordinary. We're asking that they honor a request that was made by the United States Congress," said Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Prince William Republican.

"This is the only flag that's been known not to have returned to its original home," said Delegate Allen W. Dudley, Franklin County Republican.

The final changes to the bill to require a minute of silence every day in public schools passed the Senate, and the bill now goes to the governor, who has said he will sign it.

Senators had to approve the new version of the bill sponsored by Sen. Warren E. Barry, Fairfax Republican. Current law allows local school boards to choose to have a minute of silence in schools.

The bill is almost certain to face a court challenge, both sides of the debate agree.

Exceedingly drunken drivers would be required to serve at least five days in jail under legislation that passed the House yesterday.

The legislation sponsored by Sen. William C. Mims, Loudoun Republican, would require a five-day jail term for drunken drivers with a blood alcohol content of .20 percent. That's 2 and 1/2 times the legal limit of .08 percent.

A drunken driver at .25 would be required to serve at least 10 days in jail.

The House passed the bill 83-14.

Delegate Thomas W. Moss Jr., Norfolk Democrat, opposed the bill, saying judges already have the discretion to put first-time drunken drivers in jail.

The bill has already passed the Senate, but the Senate must agree to minor amendments by the House.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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