Consideration of SB345, SB819, SB1442, SB1488, SB1489 and SB1531 and the promotion of PA Air National Guard Colonel Gerald E. Otterbein

March 13, 2012
11 a.m., Room 8 E-B

Agenda


The promotion of PA Air National Guard Colonel Gerald E. Otterbein of Hallam Twp., York County, to Brigadier General. Sen. Lloyd Smucker will introduce Col. Otterbein.

Senate Bill 345 (Baker) amends the County Code to provide uniform, minimum standards for county Directors of Veterans Affairs. The need for this bill was underscored by a recent study conducted by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, the Penn State Data Center, and the Institute for State and Regional Affairs. That study confirmed that county directors are being called upon to do more and more for veterans, but their training, credentials, availability and support vary from county to county. This bill mirrors Senate Bill 1393 of last session. A 2010 public hearing indicated the need for strong, effective directors in every county, especially with the closing of the Governor’s Veterans Outreach Assistance Centers. The bill codifies in statute what many county directors already do in practice. It is supported by the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs (DMVA), the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP), and the State Association of County Veterans Affairs Directors

Senate Bill 819 (Robbins) would remove about 600 nursing, medical, and therapeutic staff positions at the state’s six veterans’ homes from Civil Service classification. The veterans’ preference for hiring would remain in place, as would any existing collective bargaining agreements. The provisions of this bill were approved by the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee last session, as Senate Bill 1076 of 2009-2010. The bill’s goal is to alleviate recruitment challenges and delays in hiring at veterans’ homes. This bill is supported by the DMVA and the State Veterans Commission.


Legislation:
Senate Bill 1442, P.N. 2019 (White, Mary Jo). Updates the Code of Military Justice.   SB 1442 is supported by the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs (DMVA), the Pennsylvania National Guard Association, and the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

Senate Bill 1488, P.N. 2115 (Baker). Clarifies that the education gratuity/tuition voucher  may be given to the children and spouse of Guardsmen and women killed in the line of duty, even if the Guardsman was not a resident of Pennsylvania at the time of death.  Priority for DMVA.  The bill affects only a few children, but it is important to extend this benefit to them.(A Guardsman killed last summer in Afghanistan had moved his family to Georgia, but his children remained in Pennsylvania.  This bill ensures that the surviving family members would be able to qualify for this benefit.)  SB 1488 addresses the benefit as awarded under a 1998 law affecting PHEAA.

Senate Bill 1489, P.N. 2116 (Baker) Companion to SB 1488.  Also clarifies that the education gratuity can be given to the children and spouse of Guardsmen and women killed in the line of duty, even if the Guardsman was not a resident of Pennsylvania at the time of death.  Priority for DMVA.  Amends Title 51 (Military Code).

Senate Bill 1531, P.N. 2218 (Baker)  Establishes the PA Veterans Trust Fund (PVTF) to enhance programs and benefits for Pennsylvania’s one million  veterans.  In FY 2012, $1.7 million will be transferred to the PVTF after the sale of the Scotland School for Veterans’ Children campus ($700,000 of this will be used for grants to veterans’ service organizations; $1 million for the Pennsylvania Veterans Foundation to fund grants.)  The fund will also include proceeds paid by PennDOT for contributions from drivers’ licenses, registrations and special license plates.PennDOT will begin accepting contributions as part of a check-off system accompanying license and registration renewals. It is expected to generate $500,000 per year.  A special “Honor our Veterans” license plate is expected to realize up to $200,000 per year.

Grants, gifts and other payments/appropriations to PVTF may be made in future years.

The PVTF may expend funds for grants to the Pennsylvania Veterans Foundation and other charitable foundations and veterans’ service organizations, to support new and expanded efforts by county veterans’ programs, for temporary assistance to veterans for the necessities of living, and to care for Pennsylvania veterans’ monuments.

Pennsylvania veterans will be able to request a veterans’ identifier (such as a large “V”) on their drivers’ license or PennDOT-issued ID for non-drivers.  Participation is voluntary and will require veterans to provide documentation (DD Form 214, military ID, etc.) and pay a one-time fee of $5.

The PVTF will reimburse the Motor License Fund for PennDOT’s administrative costs.

SB 1531 charters and recognizes the Pennsylvania Veterans Foundation, an IRS-recognized charitable organization (501(c)(3) which is already raising funds for veterans.

Pennsylvania will be one of the first states to forge a partnership between state and county governments, as well as veterans’ service organizations and charitable organizations that support veterans. Number one legislative priority for DMVA.