Veterans Legislation Highlights 2011-2015

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

The words above concluded the second inaugural address given by Abraham Lincoln in 1865 near the end of the Civil War. He found himself on the verge of having to reunite a nation torn apart by a conflict that pitted brother against brother. Our military and the wars they fight have changed a lot since his message was first delivered. However, Lincoln’s call to action – to care for service members and their families – is just as timely today as it was then.

Since first being elected to the Assembly in 2010, I have worked with my colleagues to ensure we help the men and women of our Armed Forces as they serve and transition back into civilian life. Below are some of the legislative highlights from the past few years.

2015

SB 413 (Author) – Helping Veterans Complete their College Degrees

Would extend the length of approved absence in catalog rights for students performing active military service so that they can continue to serve our country and pursue their education. Please join me in authoring this important piece of veterans legislation. Catalog rights are the rights of students, who are continuously enrolled, to graduate under the requirements of the course catalog in effect when they first began their studies. By passing this legislation, many active duty students would not have to complete additional courses if they were not included in the course catalog when they began their degree.

SB 111 (Co-author) – Funding for Schools near Military Bases

California has 11 schools in 6 school districts on the Secretary of Defense Priority List that qualify for Public Schools on Military Installations (PSMI) Grant Program.  This Department of Defense program is used for the renovation, repair or reconstruction of schools facilities located near military bases that serve military families. The majority of these eligible California schools cannot raise the necessary funds to fund the 20 percent match required to access the funding due to the difficulty raising bond funds in areas with low assessed property valuations. SB 111 would provide as much as $6 million in state resources to secure up to $240 million from the Department of Defense.

A related measure, SB 121, would allow the State Allocation Board to provide the 20 percent match to these schools.

AB 171 (Co-author) – Predictable Funding for County Veterans Service Officers

Would make permanent the recent $3 million state funding augmentation to County Veterans Service Officers (CVSOs). The total amount appropriated by the state budget to CVSOs would be $5.6 million. CVSOs are located in almost every county in California. Their role is to match veterans with federal benefits.

2014

AB 13 (Supported) – In-State Tuition for G.I. Bill Veterans

Requires the California State University and California Community College systems – and requests the University of California – to grant in-state tuition for all students using the G.I. Bill.  If Senate Republicans had not fought to move this legislation forward in the final days of the 2014 legislative session, over 78,000 California veterans attending a UC, CSU or CCC would have faced the possibility of losing their G.I. Bill benefits.

2013

AB 368 (Author) – Higher Education Residency Requirements for Military Personnel

Would have allowed active duty military service members and their dependents to pay in-state tuition regardless of their residency status, eliminating a potential financial disincentive for veterans to pursue their education in California and join the state’s workforce after graduation.

AB 526 (Co-author) – Deferred Financial Obligations for Those Serving Overseas

Extended to all military reservists called to active duty the financial protections previously provided only to military reservists called to active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Military reservists who are called to active duty now receive the financial protection to defer payments without interest, up to 180 days, on a mortgage, credit card, retail installment contract, retail installment account, two car loans, property tax, or utility bill.

2012

AB 2130 (Co-author) – Peace Officer Training for Military Service Members

Would have allowed former military police officers to more easily qualify as local police officers by authorizing the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to consider previous military police officer training as part of the commission’s basic course waiver process. Would have authorized POST to develop a protocol that considers previous military police officer training as an applicable substitute for portions of the current standard training.

2011

AB 398 (Author) – Fire Service Certification Military Service Members 

Allows service members to quickly become firefighters by giving the State Fire Marshal the authority to accept certification by the Department of Defense as equivalent training to Firefighter-1, which is the basic certification required for a firefighter in California.

AB 1209 (Co-author) – Funding for County Veterans Service Officers

Would have appropriated $7.3 million from the state General Fund to fund the activities of the County Veterans Service Officers. The bill made specific allocations for CVSOs, grants to counties and non-profit organizations for veterans services, and for Operation Welcome Home or a successor program.