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Friday, June 02, 2017

NOTES FROM THE SENATE, JUNE 2, 2017

VETERANS AND MILITARY RECEIVE LEGISLATIVE ATTENTION

Members of the military stationed in Georgia and our veterans were the object of several pieces of legislation in the 2017 Session, and the FY 2018 Budget also contains several initiatives focused on veterans and military members.

LEGISLATION AFFECTING MILITARY AND VETERANS

SB 108 - Creates a women's veterans office within the Department of Veterans Services to reach out to women veterans and improve awareness of their eligibility for state and federal veterans services. The office will also assess the needs of women veterans and review present programs for improvement.

HB 196 - Four bills wound up being included in this bill. Allows a retroactive Homestead exemption for disabled veterans whose notification comes later after taxes are already paid on their homestead. If a veteran has applied for disability and is paying the ad valorem taxes during the period the application is being considered by VA, they would receive a refund on those taxes paid for up to three years while the application was being processed. The other 3 bills included had to do with ad valorem taxes.

HB 224 - Allows students in military families living on or off-base to attend any school in the school system of the county where the base is located.

HB 24 - Tasks Professional Standards Commission to establish a process for military spouses to qualify for temporary certificates when relocating to Georgia due to spouse's transfer so they could immediately be employed in Georgia's public schools.

HB 322 - Expands eligibility period for Georgia residency for veterans to qualify for residency in the Georgia War Veterans Home to those who served between January 31, 1955 and August 1, 1990.

HB 470 - Creates the Defense Community Economic Development Fund whose mission is to provide assistance to military communities. The Department of Economic Development will develop the program, amount of the grants and measure the extent the grant furthers the relationship between the military installation and the civilian community, the economic investments in the community and aids efforts to defend the viability of the military installation from federal review. Subject to appropriations.

HB 139 - Authorizes DOE to establish a unique identifier for every student whose parent is in the military. Will allow the tracking of students and provide support as needed.

FUNDING TO SUPPORT THE MILITARY

$445,000 for additional school counselors for districts that have a large concentration of military students.

$150,000 for military support in Cobb County

$100,000 to Vocational Rehabilitation to be matched with federal funds to retrain veterans transitioning to civilian life

Utilizing existing funds in Student Finance Commission to increase the award amount for the North Georgia College Military Reserve Officers Training Corps Grant for future officers to $4000

Transfers $1 million for the Georgia Veterans Education Career Transition Resource Center from TCSG teaching program

$359,437 for total of $2.3 million for actuarial projections for the Georgia Military Pension Fund for National Guardsmen

$29,923 for budget enhancements at Georgia Veterans Memorial Cemeteries

$316,422 for budget additions at Georgia War Veterans Homes for total of $12.5 million appropriated.
Total of $731,501 for the Department of Veterans Services to establish a women veterans coordinator position and 4 new veteran benefits training officers.

$564,870 for grants to expand and create new Veterans' Accountability Courts

BONDS FOR CAPITAL OUTLAY

$3 Million to the Department of Veterans Services for the War Veterans Home for renovation of a skilled nursing facility in Milledgeville

$1.12 million for the Department of Defense for National Guard Armories Readiness Centers in Gainesville, Winder and statewide to match federal funds.

There is an active group of legislators looking to find ways to support our military personnel and facilities...and to benefit Georgia veterans returning home. This is part of our country's responsibility for sending soldiers off to fight for and defend our country's freedom around the world.

Full transcripts of bills may be found at http://www.legis.ga.gov/en-US/default.aspx . Simply type the bill number into the box at the top left-hand corner of the screen and specify if it is in the House or the Senate. The FY 2018 budget (H.B. 44) may be found at http://www.senate.ga.gov/sbeo/en-US/AppropriationsDocuments.aspx. As always, I welcome any questions you may have.

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