Musial or Veterans? Illinois House approves name for new bridge

May 1, 2013 

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The Illinois House has approved a resolution naming the new bridge over the Mississippi River the Veterans Memorial Bridge.

The move is the latest in a series of dueling actions over whether the span should be named in honor of veterans or the late St. Louis Cardinals player Stan Musial.

There also is disagreement on who has authority to name the bridge. Is it Congress and the president? Or is it the legislatures of Illinois and Missouri?

Federal lawmakers and Missouri legislators generally favor a Musial name, while Illinois lawmakers favor a veterans name.

The veterans name approved Tuesday by the Illinois House was part of a measure sponsored primarily by Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville. Hoffman, in a news release issued Wednesday, said the veterans name will be official if the Illinois Senate and the Missouri state legislature give their approval, too.

Hoffman's resolution passed the House unanimously, 109-0. It is co-sponsored by Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton; Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton; and Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson, D-East St. Louis.

"By naming this bridge in memory of the men and women who have served our nation, we are honoring them on a daily basis. I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for supporting this measure to honor the sacrifices our military veterans have made," Hoffman said. "I look forward to continuing to advocate on behalf of veterans across our state."

But the region's congressional delegation is pushing a Musial name.

In January, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, filed a bill in the U.S. Senate to name the bridge after Musial. It was co-sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri; Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Chicago; and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield.

Christina Mulka, a spokeswoman for Durbin, said two weeks ago that Congress and the President hold the naming authority, not the states.

"When it comes to federal aid-eligible highways and bridges, Congress has the final say," Mulka said. "So if the U.S. House and Senate pass a naming bill and it is signed into law by the President, it would take precedence over the state process."

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved the Musial bill in March. Matching legislation is now pending in the U.S. House, sponsored by Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, and co-sponsored by Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville.

Missouri lawmakers also have taken steps toward a Musial name.

The Missouri House in April voted 147-0 in favor of a measure naming the bridge after Musial. The vote sent the bill to the Missouri Senate, which endorsed a similar measure earlier this year.

Musial, a seven-time National League batting champion, died Jan. 19 and is recognized as the greatest St. Louis Cardinals player ever. Durbin has noted that Musial also was a Navy veteran and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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