SACRAMENTO – As thousands of California’s servicemen and women – such as Assemblyman Jeff Gorell – prepare to return home from war, Assembly Republicans today introduced legislation to improve services for all veterans to help them adjust to civilian life.
“From Pearl Harbor and Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq, our veterans were there when our country needed them,” said Assemblymember Paul Cook, (R-Yucca Valley), the chair of the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee and a retired Marine Corps Colonel. “Now it’s our responsibility as legislators and grateful Americans to be there for them when they return home. That is why we are introducing proposals to ensure that veterans receive the services and benefits they deserve.”
The Assembly Republican bill package would make it easier for veterans to transition back to their communities and get the resources they need. Republicans crafted these measures partly in response to the evolving U.S. role in the Middle East, as tens of thousands of troops such as Asm. (and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander) Gorell will be coming home over the next several months. Asm. Gorell provided the ideas for many of these measures, and Asm. Cook has introduced them on his behalf while he is away on active duty.
Among the many reforms that Republicans are proposing today are:
· Making it easier for our troops to vote (Assembly Bill 1929, Gorell)
· Helping veterans obtain state employment (Assembly Bill 1930, Gorell)
· Creating a “one-stop shop” for veterans to access services and benefits (Assembly Bill 1931, Gorell)
· Making sure military training counts for licensure of health care jobs (Assembly Bill 1932, Gorell)
· Allowing former military police officers to more easily qualify as local police officers (Assembly Bill 2130, Gorell)
· Protecting the custody rights of military single parents (Assembly Bill 1807, Cook)
· Giving veterans a tax break on certain service-related pay (Assembly Bill 2004, Knight)
· Extending priority class registration enrollment for current or former members of the Armed Services at a community college or state university to 15 years (Assembly Bill 1832, Silva)
· Requiring public colleges and universities to give credit for veterans’ medical coursework (Assembly Bill 1976, Logue)
· Waiving inspection fees for veterans with disabilities to modify their homes (Assembly Bill 1592 Olsen)
· Restoring funding for new veterans homes in Fresno and Redding (Assembly Bill 2151, Halderman)
Veterans home funding is a top budget priority for Assembly Republicans. These homes were built to house hundreds of veterans, but Governor Brown and the majority party removed key funding in their budget last year. No public hearings were held before the cut was made and it prevented the homes from opening on time.
“Veterans should always be a top legislative and budget priority,” said Assemblymember Linda Halderman (R-Fresno), the author of Assembly Bill 2151. “That is why I have authored legislation to ensure that the state honors the promise it made to our veterans two years ago by immediately restoring funding for the veterans homes in Fresno and Redding. Our veterans should never be a budget bargaining chip.”
“In a budget of $90 billion, it makes no sense to cut a few million dollars on those who sacrificed so much for our country,” said Assemblymember Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), the principal co-author of Assembly Bill 2151. “Budgets are about priorities and our veterans must be a priority.”
An important priority for Republicans is ensuring veterans have access to college courses and job training for their post-military careers.
“When our military heroes return home from battle, it is essential that they receive the training they need to successfully transition to civilian life,” said Assemblymember Jim Silva (R-Huntington Beach). “Giving them priority registration to college classes will ensure that they are prepared to succeed in whatever field they choose and provide financially for themselves and their families.”
Republicans also emphasized their legislation to help veterans financially by giving them breaks on certain taxes and fees.
“California’s veterans returning from hazardous missions overseas have selflessly put themselves in harm’s way, and deserve the state and federal benefits they earned,” said Assemblymember Steve Knight (R-Antelope Valley). “America is indebted for the service of its military men and women, and I am proud to support our veterans by authoring legislation that conforms federal and state tax laws.”
“Bureaucracy and red tape should never get in the way of veterans with disabilities trying to adjust to a new life,” said Assemblymember Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto). “By waiving inspection fees for veterans modifying their homes to cope with their service-related injuries, we will help them save money and live a higher quality of life much sooner.”