ANNVILLE ‚?? In a room packed with military and government officials, Gov. Tom Corbett on Monday ceremonially signed seven pieces of legislation that benefit Pennsylvania‚??s military veterans and Pennsylvania National Guard.
Sen. Lisa Baker, who as chairwoman of the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee had a hand in those and other bills that expand assistance to veterans, said she was ‚??overwhelmed‚?Ě by the event at Fort Indiantown Gap.
Baker, R-Lehman Township, said a bill she sponsored ‚?? SB 1531 ‚?? establishes the Veterans‚?? Trust Fund, which will authorize grants to the PA Veterans Foundation and other veterans‚?? and charitable organizations that provide benefits to veterans and their families.
‚??We‚??ve been able to accomplish some 25 major initiatives for our veterans,‚?Ě Baker said of her committee‚??s work.
Legislation that establishes the Veterans‚?? Trust Fund will provide a way to combine new private and public dollars to expand and extend veterans services, Baker said.
She said part of the money will come from the sale of the Scotland School, which was specifically designed to educate and care for the children of Pennsylvania military service veterans. The school in Franklin County opened in 1895 and closed three years ago because of the state‚??s budget crunch.
‚??And part will come from Pennsylvanians who value and appreciate how much our veterans have done for us,‚?Ě she said.
The ceremony was held the day after Veterans Day at the Pennsylvania National Guard‚??s Keystone Conference Center at Fort Indiantown Gap.
‚??Today is about honoring a debt; a debt earned in blood and sacrifice,‚?Ě Corbett said. ‚??These bills are various in their goals. But they share the single purpose of repaying part of the debt we owe to those who have guarded our freedom and place their very lives between us and our enemies.‚?Ě
Baker used the occasion to thank the millions who have fought for flag and freedom in the armed forces.
‚??We thank those who put personal safety and comfort aside for the good of our country,‚?Ě Baker said. ‚??Today we think about all that is good in America. About brave men and women who protect us and defend freedom and democracy. About the rights and privileges of citizenship we enjoy because of their service. About the example set and the lessons imparted to the generations to come. Every grateful American knows that thank you is never enough. We must show our gratitude in action, not mere words.‚?Ě
She thanked her colleagues in the House and Senate and Corbett for their support of the more than two dozen laws passed in two years designed to honor and serve veterans.
‚??This is a wonderful culmination of years of hard work in the legislature,‚?Ě said retired Air Force Maj. Gen. William Lynch of Hazleton, who headed Pennsylvania‚??s National Guard under three governors. ‚??This is tremendously gratifying for all veterans.‚?Ě
Joining Baker and Corbett at the signing were members of the Pennsylvania National Guard, including Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, representatives of several veterans‚?? groups, lawmakers, state and local leaders.
Legislation ceremonially signed Monday by Gov. Tom Corbett included:
‚?Ę The Veterans Trust Fund, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, will provide for veterans‚?? programs. Financed through several sources, the fund will receive $1.7 million after the sale of Scotland School for Veterans Children, and continue to grow, providing help and assistance for veterans.
‚?Ę ‚??V‚?Ě Designation on Driver License, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Pyle, R-Armstrong County, requires PennDOT to issue a driver‚??s license or ID card with a ‚??V‚?Ě for Veteran identifier at no additional cost, for persons who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
‚?Ę Pennsylvania Code of Military Justice, sponsored by Sen. Mary Jo White, R-Butler County, substantially revises the code, enforcing order and discipline for members of the Pennsylvania National Guard who are not in active federal service.
‚?Ę Uniformed Military Overseas Voting Act, sponsored by Sen. Bob Robbins, R-Butler County, simplifies and provides uniformity to the registration and absentee ballot process for uniformed service voters and overseas civilian voters for all elections within the state.
‚?Ę Veteran-Owned Business Procurement Program, sponsored by Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, R-Bucks County, encourages state agencies to contract with veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.
‚?Ę HB 1830, sponsored by Rep. John Bear, R-Lancaster County, establishes special license plates for World War II veterans of the U.S. Merchant Marine and for all veterans of U.S. Military Airborne Units. Prior to this legislation, special military license plates were available to World War II veterans of all other military services except the Merchant Marine.
‚?Ę Municipal Police Officers‚?? Education and Training Commission, sponsored by Rep. Marcia Hahn, R-Northampton County, which provides training for all police officers in the state on recognizing and interacting with veterans and other individuals suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.