Memorial Day and Summary of New Legislation


With Memorial Day approaching and the Legislative Session just ending, I thought you might be interested in a summary of the Veterans Affairs provisions passed by the Legislature this year.  Many of the provisions are signed into law and some are in the Tax bill which has not been signed yet and may be vetoed.  Over the next few days I will publish other summaries and give you some sense of what my first year in theDSC000281.JPG legislature was like.

Current Deployments: Currently there are 3,300 deployed service members from the Minnesota National Guard.
Returns:  The National Guard expects approximately 2,600 back yet this summer before the end of the federal fiscal year (Sept 30th).
Next Deployments: At that time another 1,000 troops will  be sent to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo.


MN GI Bill: This act, which provides the last dollar of financial aid to Minnesota veterans, is funded at $12 million.  The act provides $1000 per semester and will be administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (only for vets since 9/11/01). (HF 1063)
Heroes Earned Retirement Opportunities Act:  This provision allows tax-exempt combat pay to be used as a basis for making IRA contributions.  Without this provision, members of the military (including the National Guard) who are deployed to combat zones and have little earned income other than their combat pay will be required to track earnings on their IRAs separately for state and federal purposes. This was the first bill signed in the 2007 session. (HF8/Ch 1)
Unless otherwise noted, all following provisions are in HF 2227/Ch. 45, which the Governor did sign into law:

Veterans' Budget: The budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs is increased by the 2007 Legislature by 70% to $24.7 million.  

State Solider Assistance Program: There is a $2 million increase in the State Solider Assistance Program, an increase of 14% over current law.

County Veterans Service Officer: $1.5 million is provided for grants to counties to provide veterans' service officers.  

Campus Vets Assistance:  $900,000 will double from 6 to 12 the number of regional campus representatives serving the needs of students who are veterans at higher education institutions in Minnesota.

Veterans Outreach: $3.4 million is for more extensive veterans outreach by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Of this, $750,000 a year is for services to homeless veterans.  Another $750,000 per year is for tribal veterans service officers.

Veterans Service Organizations:  $500,000 is provided for grants to Veterans Service Organizations to reach out to veterans.

Department of Veterans Affairs: There's an administrative increase of $500,000 for the Department of Veterans Affairs to effectively implement the significant responsibilities enacted in the 2006 Session.  An additional $200,000 is for staffing and information technology at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

State Veterans Cemetery: $75,000 is provided for increased operating funds to the State Veterans Cemetery in Little Falls.

Honor Guards:  $200,000 is made available to provide honor guards at the funerals of deceased veterans.  

War Survivors' Benefits:  $52,000 will cover the estimated cost of extending education benefits to the spouses of soldiers killed in action.  Prior to this change, only children, not spouses, of deceased soldiers are eligible for this benefit.

Depleted Uranium: Veterans returning from the first Gulf War and Iraq are concerned about the use of depleted uranium in shell casings and whether that exposure is causing sickness and death. This act provides $200,000 to be used to notify veterans they are eligible for federal testing for exposure to this toxin.  

World War II Veterans Memorial Dedication:  $250,000 is provided to invite and bring surviving Minnesota World War II veterans to the dedication of the WWII memorial in June.

Vets Hotline: $80,000 is allocated to fund a crisis hotline that veterans or their families can call if they need emergency help and/or guidance to obtain psychiatric services.

Veterans Homes Executive Director:  This act gives preference to qualified veterans, but if fewer than three are qualified, the board can add non-veterans to the selection list. This modifies current law, which requires the executive director of the Veterans Homes be a veteran.  

Firearms Licenses While on Active Duty: This act makes clear that the phrase "license or certificate of registration" in existing law includes, but is not limited to, a license or certificate of registration for a trade, employment, occupation or profession for which the state requires firearms and use of force training.  Existing law states that when a holder of a license or certificate of registration is mobilized for military service, they are exempt from license renewal fees and making applications for renewal, and their license remains in full force and effect while they are gone. This act provides that any compensatory job-related education or training considered necessary by the licensee's or registrant's employer must be provided and paid for by the employer, and must not be permitted to delay the licensee's or registrant's reemployment. (HF 272/Ch 51)


Military Affairs Budget:  Overall, the Department of Military Affairs gets a 15.6% increase above the base to $39.8 million.

Armory Maintenance:  This act provides $2 million for armory maintenance such as cleaning, maintenance, snow removal and grounds maintenance. This is less than the governor's request because the legislature preferred to fund programs directly helping veterans and their families rather than building maintenance during this time of war.

Camp Ripley:  This act authorizes the Adjutant General to establish a Minnesota National Guard Non-appropriated Fund Instrumentality to create, operate and maintain morale, welfare and recreation facilities and activities at Camp Ripley.

Special Assessments: This act provides a one-time appropriation of $185,000 for special assessments levied by local governments against custodial property held by the Department of Military Affairs. The money will be used to pay for local improvements that will benefit the National Guard's property.  

Reintegration: This act provides $1.5 million in one-time funds for the National Guard Reintegration Program—"Beyond the Yellow Ribbon". The program helps Guard members address critical issues as they return from war. Services will include speakers, counselors, and other specialized professionals, meeting halls, lodging and meals for Guard members. It will also pay for spouses' meals, mileages and centralized day care.

Support Our Troops Account: This act includes $676,000 for the Support Our Troops account, which makes grants to members of the National Guard, the Reserve, as well as Minnesota residents in active duty in any branch of the US military and their families.

Enlistment Incentives: $20.4 million is appropriated to the state's enlistment incentives program for 12,975 members of the Minnesota Arm and Air National Guard. The services include tuition reimbursement, extended tuition reimbursement (for service members ordered into active federal service), state re-enlistment bonuses and commissioning bonuses.

STARBASE Minnesota:  This act appropriates $150,000 to STARBASE Minnesota to pay for the design of a new facility. STARBASE is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose purpose is to increase the knowledge, skills and interest of inner city youth in science, mathematics and technology for greater academic and lifelong success.

Honor Guard Reimbursement: Upon the death of a person who has honorably served six years or more in active service in the Minnesota National Guard, the Adjutant General may activate members to serve as an honor guard at the funeral.  This act provides $60,000 for Honor Guard Reimbursement.
National Guard Officer Reenlistment:  A law change will broaden eligibility to allow for payment of a bonus to those accepting an officer's commission in the Minnesota National Guard. Currently, only enlisted personnel are eligible for the bonus. (HF1594/Ch 21)
Tuition (and Textbook) Reimbursement Grant Program:  New authority will allow the tuition and textbook reimbursement program to pay up to 25 postsecondary educational grants of $1,000 each per year, with grants being awarded on a competitive basis to eligible members of the Minnesota National Guard. (HF 1594/Ch 21)
Expanded Support Our Troops Account:  This account was established in 2005 by the Department of Military Affairs. It is funded with private contributions and proceeds from the sale of license plates. This act broadens the eligibility for soldiers and veterans to allow for grants to  "current financial needs related to their service." (SF 1675/Ch 86)


Veterans and Military Tax  Provisions below are  from HF 2268 (Tax Bill) (note the Governor has said he might veto the entire bill, and if that happens these provisions will not become law):

Military Service Combat Zone Credit:  Doubles the Military Service Combat Zone Credit from $59 per month to $120 per month, effective for service after December 31, 2006. The bill also ensures that the estate or heirs of a deceased member of the military can claim the credit for service since September 11, 2001.

National Guard Income Tax Exclusion: Ensures that the 2005 law change exempting Military Reservists out-of-state military services from the income tax also applies to the National Guard.

Class Rate Reduced for VFWs, American Legions and Other Service Organizations: Reduces classification rate for nonprofit community service-oriented organizations such as the VFW, American Legion, etc. Currently, these properties are taxed at the Commercial/Industrial rate.

Disabled Vets Property Tax Exemption: Allows disabled veterans to exclude a portion of market value from property taxes. The provision applies to honorably discharged veterans who have a military service-connected disability of 70% or higher.

The market value exclusion for disabled veterans would be:

  •  $300,000 market value exclusion for a veteran with a service-connected disability rated as being total and permanent
  •   $150,000 market value exclusion for a veteran with a service-connected disability rated at 70% to 100%Upon the death of the veteran, the market value exclusion benefit carries over to the person's spouse, if the spouse co-owns or inherits the home.

Veteran Hardship Assessment Deferral: Extends the option to defer certain assessments to members of the National Guard and military reserves ordered into active service. Currently a county, city, or town, at its discretion may defer the payment of special assessment for any homestead property of seniors and disabled persons that it determines causes a hardship. This provision adds National Guard and reserve members ordered to active service to that authorization.

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