As the nation prepares to observe Memorial Day, New York State Sen. Rob Ortt, R-C-I-North Tonawanda, and the Senate majority passed seven measures dedicated to improving the lives of veterans. The bills pay tribute to the soldiers' service to state and country.
Ortt, a Senate committee member on veterans, homeland security and military affairs, said, "My Senate colleagues and I are committed to supporting our veterans in every way that we can. Our veterans fought to defend our values, beliefs and freedoms, and it's important to show that we are forever thankful to them by helping to make their lives more meaningful and successful. The legislation we just passed does exactly that."
Ortt's bill (S3408) allows any veteran who has served this nation to be awarded a high school degree based on their knowledge and experience gained while in service. Current law, under Operation Recognition, allows World War II, Korean and Vietnam veterans to receive their high school diploma. This legislation would expand the program to cover all veterans.
Other legislation passed Tuesday that would benefit veterans includes:
•S6577A, sponsored by Sen. Terrence Murphy (Yorktown), allows New York state income tax filers to contribute to the Veterans' Home Assistance Fund;
•S2245C, sponsored by Sen. David Carlucci (Rockland/Westchester), gives school districts the option to offer real property tax exemptions to eligible veterans;
•S1200A, sponsored by Sen. Kathleen Marchione (Halfmoon), provides an increase in the rates of annuities payable to veterans and surviving spouses of veterans from $1,000 to $1,500;
•S2263, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Griffo (Rome), allows those with military service and honorable discharge to attend classes at the State University of New York and the City University of New York on a tuition-free audit basis; and
•S870, sponsored by Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer (R-C-I-Amherst), permits each county, city, town or village to adopt a local law to authorize veterans who have not been discharged or released from a current, subsequent military service to receive an additional veteran real property owner tax exemption.
The Senate also gave final passage to S3137C, sponsored by Sen. Tom Croci (Sayville), which requires the State Division of Veteran Affairs to maintain a fact sheet on its website containing contact information for all veterans integrated service networks in New York, and for the U.S. Veterans Health Administration to help veterans better navigate the health care system.
All bills have been sent to the Assembly, except S3137C, which will be sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.