Bush OKs Alamo banner retrieval
New law will allow state officials to negotiate with Mexico in swap
By Stefanie Scott San Antonio Express-News Austin Bureau, 06/15/95
AUSTIN - Gov. George W. Bush - in the spirit of Flag Day -signed into law Wednesday a measure authorizing state officials to retrieve the flag that flew over the Alamo the day it fell.
"That's wonderful," said Sen. Carlos Truan, D-Corpus Christi, the bill's author.
The legislation, co-sponsored by Reps. Bob Hunter, R-Abilene, and Karyne Conley, D-San Antonio, authorizes the Texas State Library and Archives Commission to pursue an agreement with Mexican officials to loan or swap the Alamo flag for three Mexican flags captured by Texans at the battle of San Jacinto from Mexican Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.
The bill was one of more than 100 signed by Bush on Wednesday before a Sunday deadline.
The Alamo flag signing came after Bush expressed some concern on what impact the legislation will have on his ability to negotiate directly with the Mexican president on the issue.
"The bill in no way binders Governor Bush's efforts to use personal diplomacy to secure the return of the Alamo flag," said Bush spokesman Ray Sullivan. "He concluded that it (the bill) does not hinder his own efforts."
As far as when the process will begin, Sullivan said: "The governor has said it will be an ongoing process starting with increasing the ties and friendship between him and Mexican government officials."
Truan said: "It was never the intention to leave out the governor. On the contrary, it was expected that the governor would be the one that would be taking the leadership role.
"The legislation will lay the foundation for any future discussions that may lead to the loaning or the exchange of the flags," he continued. "In my opinion, any prospect for success ...may result in the displaying of the flags both in Mexico and in Texas as a matter of history."
Texans long have sought the return of the flag of the New Orleans Greys that flew over the Alamo and was captured by Mexican soldiers on March 6, 1836, when the mission fell.
The Matamoros, Guerrero and Toluca flags are the banners that would be traded for the Alamo flag.
Some Texans have expressed concern at a swap, including a descendant of the hero of San Jacinto, Sam Houston IV.
Houston contends that Mexico won the flag fair and square and it is of part of the spoils of war.
The Alamo flag is emblazoned with a flying eagle and the declaration "God and Liberty."
The Legislature in 1991 asked President Bush to make the flag's return a part of negotiations for the North American Free Trade Agreement, officials said.
Truan's bill said any agreement would not affect title to the flags and would call for restoration of all four.
The Toluca flag is at the San Jacinto Museum in LaPorte and was restored by the state in the 1970s. The Matamoros and Guerrero flags are vaulted at the Texas archives and are said to be in dire need of restoration.
Several months ago, Mexican officials indicated in some news reports that they can't find the artifact.
Bush also signed into law Wednesday a measure setting up safety guidelines at unmanned automatic teller machines, known as ATMs. The bill, by Rep. Sylvia Romo, D-San Antonio, was passed after a San Antonio man was gunned down last year after making a withdrawal from a walk-up machine.
The legislation also authorizes the Finance Commission and Credit Union Commission to adopt rules regarding the safety of ATMs, which could include requiring banks to install and maintain security devices.
"We need to guard our money and keep it safe," Romo said. "But I think we also need to think in terms of securing people."
Another measure signed by Bush gives a new lease on life to the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority board of directors.
Two years ago, the Legislature put the nine-member board of directors, appointed by the governor, under so-called "sunset review," with terms set to expire Sept. 1 unless legislators designated otherwise.
The move arose from conflicts dealing with GBRA officials during negotiations over the Edwards aquifer.
But this year, the Legislature - satisfied that board members made an effort to "clean up their act" - voted to take the board out of sunset review.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Ken Armbrister, D-Victoria,and Rep. David Counts, D-Knox City, takes effect Sept. 1.