Middle TN Chapter Legislative Affairs Report for February 2018
"2018 Veterans Legislative Day On Tennessee’s Capitol Hill February 7, 2018"
The TN state government considers and passes laws each year affecting Active Duty, Guard, Reserve and Retired Service Members and their families. For the past two years TN, organized Veteran Service Organizations have voiced their concerns with legislators and at times have been successful, at times, having Veteran friendly bills passed such as last years FULL restoration of the property tax exemption for 100% P&T veterans and passage of veteran-hiring preference legislation for private business. Special interest groups and regular citizens work to support/reject laws that impact them.
Six of your MTCMOAA Board and at large members attended this event. Mike Patenaude, Doug Minton, Kent Crossley, Jaimie Hernandez, John Furgess, and Thad Vann represented the MTC MOAA. And of course MTC Member Representative/COL Sam Whitson was already on the premises!
In addition there were a large number of MOAA members present representing other TN MOAA Chapters.
The five bills proposed include:
1. Title: Property Tax Relief For Disabled Veterans During Temporary Relocations. The proposed change to the property tax exemption law will state that if the veteran "intends" to return home from a care facility when sufficiently able, the property tax exemption remains in effect during the stay in the outside healthcare facility.
Bill Number(s) and Sponsors: SB-1675/HB-1496 – Sen. Green & Rep. Pitts
2. Title: Stolen Valor. The proposed law is similar in legal code that applies to impersonating a law enforcement officer. Those caught conducting themselves in this manner can be cited for “Criminal Impersonation” and fined as a misdemeanor. The fines collected would be transferred to support state veterans homes.
Bill Number(s) and Sponsors: SB-1829/HB-1779 – Sen. Southerland & Rep Goins
3. Title: Procedures for Naming State Veteran Homes and Associated Buildings and Grounds.
The proposed law criteria states :
“In general, individuals and groups for whom veteran homes and facilities are to be named must be recognized for their actions as veterans, performing or contributing to veteran services or for actions, while in uniform, performed in the service of the U.S. military.”
Bill Number(s) and Sponsors: SB-2004/HB-2657 – Sen. Tate & Rep. Camper
4. Title: Appointment of a veteran member to the statewide planning and policy council for the department of mental health and substance abuse services. The purpose of the council is to assist in planning a comprehensive array of high quality prevention, early intervention, treatment, and habilitation services and supports and to advise the department on policy, budget requests, and developing and evaluating services and supports.
Bill Number(s) and Sponsors: SB-1927/HB-1956 – Sen. Briggs & Rep. Rogers
5. Title: Selecting veterans to serve on State University and Community College Board of Regents. Thousands of active duty military, their dependents, and the over 500,000 veterans attain their desired degrees and certifications through the university and community college systems in Tennessee. It would be of benefit to have past military experience and representation among the members of the Board of Regents and state university boards to provide the military perspective and input, as and where needed.
Bill Number(s) and Sponsors: SB-2036/HB-2682 – Sen. Gresham & Rep. Weaver
Hill Day activities:
Participants were smoothly transported from no cost parking at Nissan Stadium by OSDTN vans to the Cordell Hull Building, the new permanent site for representatives of the state legislature. Veterans and supporters were assigned group meetings with their state senators and representatives to discuss the need to pass these five bills. Throughout the day Veterans were able to meet individually with their representatives. In each group meeting, the legislator was very supportive of Veteran issues and stressed the need to have all veterans in TN, ranging from about 500,000 to provide input to them. It was reported during today’s discussion written letters to state legislators have the impact of 100 emails. There will be several thousand bills proposed during this legislative session and the ones most represented will get the most consideration.
Participants enjoyed a wonderful no cost lunch provided by the Mission BBQ and had the opportunity to tour the Capital and state Museum. Veterans received a warm and receptive greeting and respect throughout the day. This event may be held again next year depending on the ongoing success of the TVET initiative and will benefit from continued support of Veterans.
Many thanks to OSDTN, Mission Barbecue, and the Volunteers from the Clarksville area (most of whom are MOAA Ft. Campbell Chapter Members for the countless hours and effort put in to make this event a success!
Middle TN Chapter Legislative Affairs Report for January 2018
The FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was completed by both the House and Senate. The NDAA specifies the annual budget and expenditures for DoD. This and defense appropriation bills are how money is spent for defense. The big movements are the 8,500 personnel increases in active duty Army and Marines. The Reserve and National Guard will increase a total of 1,000 personnel. Expect TRICARE cost shares to increase, primarily in retail pharmaceutical co-payments. 2018 may be the last year you can obtain your medications at military pharmacies free.
For those affected by the Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) the program was extended for another year. This is the dollar–for-dollar offset. The NDAA does not address a permanent fix to this continual problem.
The FY 2018 legislative session is not expected to be a very active session of the Tennessee General Assembly on veteran's issues for a couple of reasons as I understand them. They include:
- The general feeling among legislators and many members of the veteran's advocacy community is that the major issue - property tax exemption restoration - was addressed last session, and the attention of the legislature will move to other constituencies.
- Being an election year, this session will be a short one. There will be very little appetite for protracted battles. However, unforeseen issues could arise.
TVET intends to take up three issues that should not be controversial:
- Standardization of the process for naming veteran's homes.
- Creating a state law criminalizing the impersonation of a Veteran. The only potential obstacle could be the cost – for example if this is a crime that necessitates incarceration.
- Requiring the appointment of Veterans to state boards and commissions. This could encounter opposition. In general, there is a large block of legislators who oppose codification of board and commission appointments.