Bills Must Make Deadline Feb. 4 For Floor Debate
By Tommy Reynolds
We are approaching the first committee deadline of the session on February 4, and House members are working hard to make sure important bills clear this hurdle and make it to the floor for debate.
A number of bills have been filed regarding benefits for our active military service members, veterans and their families. Many of us believe that there are things within our capability to help these folks who have given so much for our safety and freedoms. I have filed a bill requesting that a deficit appropriation of $227,000 be provided to the Veteran’s State Education Assistance Program in order for military-affiliated college students to be able to finish the current spring semester. The federal appropriation that helps support this program was cut dramatically, and the action left our state program holding the bag for this amount — while also putting into danger the ability of current students to complete their studies this year.
Additionally, the measure provides an appropriation of $1.2 million for FY 2016 so that we won’t have to go back and patch up any cuts from the federal program next year.
There is just no reason, with full coffers, that we can’t guarantee the availability of this program which enables our service members the opportunity to achieve higher education. For perspective, 13 years ago, Mississippi appropriated $1.4 million for this same program. We are certainly blessed with a high number of military veterans and active duty members. There are about 1,200 students currently affected. I congratulate the administrators of this program for keeping it viable in the face of steep cuts. Offering this program is an important way to help our military members realize success in their chosen professions.
During this session, measures have been proposed that would offer tax exemptions for certain veterans, authorize a disabled veteran decal and to provide in-state tuition rates for out-of-state military students who are stationed here. The Veteran’s Monument Commission has also seen increased support.
There are other numerous bills filed to benefit our military members, provide them with enhanced opportunity to serve as school safety officers and offer them a fast track to obtaining a commercial drivers license.
It makes no sense to ignore the years of hands-on training that our military members possess by requiring them to prove their capability in areas where it has already been established.
A case in point is lifting certain training requirements for these individuals to obtain enhanced carry permits as gun owners. Let’s face it, if our military members are not capable of handling weapons safely and appropriately, then we are all in trouble.
I support all of these measures and will encourage my colleagues to do the same. The freedoms we enjoy in this country are due to the willingness of our citizens to risk their lives and livelihoods to serve in the military.
In the case of the National Guard, let’s not forget that it was the “citizen soldier” who fought to create the United States in the first place. We owe them a debt of gratitude today for their unwavering loyalty and courage in spite of the increased deployments and sacrifices of service during the past decade.
Please feel free to contact me at my home at 1720 N. Main Street, Water Valley, MS 38965, by email at email@example.com or by phone at (662) 473-2571. I look forward to hearing from you on any issue that you may have.