Wednesday, February 3, 2010

House bills support veterans and military servicemen and women

Photo Attached: From Left to Right, Rep. Cindy Evans, Rep. Angus McKelvey, Rep. K. Mark Takai, Dennis Egge, Rep. Barbara Marumoto

House lawmakers today presented a package of military appreciation bills that have been introduced this 2010 legislative session in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Angus McKelvey, chairman of the House Committee on Economic Revitalization, Business and Military Affairs (EBM), was joined by committee member Rep. Cindy Evans and Dennis Egge, chairman of the Oahu Veterans Council's Legislative Committee.

The package includes 14 bills and one resolution that propose to help as well as recognize veterans and military men and women currently serving their country. One bill would prevent courts from using a parent's extended absence due to military service or other public duties to alter or affect awards of child custody and visitation. Another would require that the National League of Families' prisoner of war/missing in action flag to be flown with the United States and Hawaiian flags to honor American prisoners of war and military personnel who are missing in action.

"These bills will help to strengthen the relationship that the state of Hawaii has with the military and help to stimulate more federal investment to Hawaii through the defense spending the military has committed to Hawaii," Rep. McKelvey said, noting that President Obama's proposed budget being sent to Congress has about $708 billion marked for defense spending, which will have important implications for Hawaii.

"These bills introduced on the House side bring attention to issues affecting our military, which are servicemen and their families, "said Rep. Cindy Evans. “With over 55,000 troops in Hawaii, we embrace the military as part of our ‘ohana.”

"All the bills that we are supporting benefit veterans and military personnel who live and work in our great state, and the Oahu Veterans Council sincerely thanks the legislature for offering them," said Dennis Egge.

"The spectrum of benefits from supporting the bills runs from the flying of the POW flag to the proper burial of indigent veterans,” added Egge. “One bill that I feel very strongly about is the bill that will assure voting rights for our veterans and deployed service personnel."

HB437, Relating to the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund
Extends the maximum age for EUTF health benefits coverage for dependent beneficiaries who are unmarried full-time students and are called to active duty in federal service with the National Guard or military reserves.

HB1899, Relating to Military and Overseas Civilian Absentee Voters
Implements voting provisions for uniformed services and overseas absentee voters, as recommended by Federal Voting Assistance Program.

HB1900, Relating to Military Personnel
Recognizes the designations of prisoner of war and missing in action as valid descriptions of casualty status and category classification for military personnel.

HB1942, Relating to Veterans Court
Establishes a temporary Hawaii Veterans Court within the Judiciary to help address prison overcrowding.

HB1943, Relating to Veterans
Requires the director of the office of veterans' services to act on behalf of deceased veterans found to be indigent at the time of death and without surviving immediate family members to ensure the burial of the veteran's remains in a state veterans cemetery.

HB1945, Relating to License Plates
Requires applicants for special member plates for military service to submit proof of honorable discharge from the military.

HB2061, Relating to Children
Provides that in child custody proceedings, courts shall not give undue weight to a parent's absence away from the child, when such absence is due to service in the military. Requires courts to make a reasonable effort to expedite proceedings or use electronic communication systems to facilitate a parent's participation in a proceeding when an affected parent is a substantial distance away from the court.

HB2273, Relating to Civil Service
Specifies which veterans qualify for civil service hiring preference.

HB2348, Relating to a Veterans' Memorial
Provides for the development of veterans' memorials to honor the veterans of the Persian Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, Afghanistan-Iraq War, as well as for women veterans of World War II.

HB2351, Relating to Veterans
Requires an applicant for a veteran's license plate to include a copy of the applicant's most recent discharge paper or separation document that indicates an honorable discharge or general (under honorable conditions) discharge from active duty.

HB2383, Relating to Flags
Recognizes and requires the prisoner of war/missing in action flag to be flown with the U.S. and Hawaiian flags.

HB2662, Relating to Commercial Driver's License
Extends the exemption from requirement to obtain a commercial driver's license to certain former military personnel no longer on active duty who previously operated commercial motor vehicles for military purposes, provided that they met relevant minimum federal requirements that meet or exceed state requirements to operate those vehicles.

HB2930, Relating to Special Number Plates
Provides that veterans of operation enduring freedom or operation Iraqi freedom may apply for special number plates.

HB2931, Relating to Special Number Plates
Provides that applicants for special number plates for military service may pay an optional fundraising fee for a military service veterans group. Makes appropriation to counties as State's share of cost of mandated program.

HCR3, Awarding the Hawaii Medal of Honor to United States Military Service Members, with Hawaii Connections, Killed in Action While Serving in Dangerous, Volatile, and Unstable Areas of the World, Including Iraq and Afghanistan.

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