TRENTON —The state Senate unanimously passed a bill Thursday that would allow American flags to continue flying on the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway.

It's the latest move to make sure the flags that were first placed on the overpasses immediately after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 continue flying.

Police and veterans groups maintained the flags without a problem until the Turnpike Authority started removing the flags in the weeks before the 19th anniversary of the attacks, citing safety concerns. The authority hung up signs that cite state code prohibiting the installation of any unauthorized sign, item or structure on Turnpike property.

Two of the more prominent displays are on Turnpike overpasses on Woodbridge and Port Reading avenues.

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After Gov. Phil Murphy told  the Turnpike Authority to stop taking down the flags, the Turnpike Authority came up with a temporary policy that would allow one flag in each direction. The legislation places no limit on the number of flags that can be displayed.

The state Senate passed a bill 34-0 that would allow the flags to fly after getting a permit from the respective authorities.  The bill would also prohibit the authorities from removing any American flag properly displayed and following rules established by respective authorities.

"There are no good reasons to prohibit the display of the American flag over New Jersey’s highways,” Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, one of the bill's sponsors, said in a statement. “It is a symbol of the values and principles we share as citizens. During this time of turmoil and uncertainty, it serves as a reminder of what unifies us as a nation."

The next step is for the Assembly to vote on its version of the bill. It was initially referred to the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee.

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