The Senate Republicans’ original veterans and military affairs budget proposal had a $0 target and failed to adequately fund those who have served and continue to serve the state and country.
The bill included no additional funding for operating budgets. The Department of Military Affairs (MDMA) received no additional funding – the only new money in the bill was a $50,000 transfer from the general fund to the Support Our Troops account for grants for individuals. The bill did nothing to provide for the requested funding restoration of the enlistment incentives program.
The final veterans and military affairs budget proposal was much stronger, thanks to the hard work of DFLers. The bill included $2 million in additional funding for MDMA enlistment incentives, $500,000 for the MDVA CORE program, and an additional $775,000 for the state’s veterans’ cemeteries. Policy in the bill includes tax provisions that would make it easier for veterans to receive the homestead exemption credit, a POW and MIA recognition day, a veterans’ suicide awareness day, an American Allies’ Day, and a Hmong Special Guerrilla Units Remembrance Day. The bill was passed by the Senate and the House and is awaiting action nby the governor. (SF 10)
Veterans and veterans’ spouses homestead tax exclusion
The homestead valuation tax exclusion allows for all or a portion of the market value of a property owned by a veteran and serving as the veteran’s homestead to be excluded from determining the property’s taxable market value, if the veteran meets a disability threshold. For veterans that have a disability rating of at least 70%, $150,000 of the market value is excluded, and for veterans that have a disability rating of 100%, $300,000 of the market value is excluded. Veterans’ spouses may continue to receive the exclusion for up to 8 years after the death of the veteran.
The final tax bill removes the eight-year limit on surviving spouses continuing to receive the homestead market value property tax exclusion and allows it indefinitely, until the property is sold or transferred, or the surviving spouse remarries. The application deadline also is changed from July 1 to December 15. (HF 5)
Also, included in the state government bill was a provision that would make information sharing about veterans and veterans’ spouses who qualify for the exclusion between county veterans service officers and the county assessor easier. (SF 10)
World War I memorial plaque
A bill signed into law this year replaces an inaccurate World War I memorial plaque on the Capitol grounds.
There is a World War I plaque in the Court of Honor, but it only accounts for veterans that served abroad during World War 1 (57,413 veterans in all). 118,497 Minnesotan veterans served in World War 1 both at home and abroad. Constituents of the bill’s author have asked for a new plaque that recognizes the sacrifice of all Minnesotan World War 1 Veterans, not just those that served abroad. The Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board will solicit designs for the plaque from the public. The person or organization with the winning design will furnish the plaque. (HF 810)
PROVISIONS THAT DID NOT PASS
Veterans Restorative Justice Act
Minnesota was one of the first states to do so when it established a veteran’s court in 2008. Veterans charged with crimes that are directly related to their military service are diverted to these specialty courts, where they can avoid convictions if they successfully go through treatment. Since 2008, these courts have spread across the state, but due to a lack of statewide standards, veterans are often treated differently for the same crime based on which county’s court system they go through.
A working group put together by the Veterans Defense Project, a group that advocates for adequate legal representation for veterans and works to advance the rehabilitation system for veterans involved in the criminal justice system, introduced a bill this session in committee that would establish statewide standards so that veterans can expect the same treatment across the state.
The bill, known as the Veterans Restorative Justice Act, creates two paths for veterans charged with crimes depending on the seriousness of their offense – if their offense is due to PTSD, a traumatic brain injury, or mental health issues related to their service. Both paths focus on rehabilitation for the veteran that will allow the veteran to be fully restored to the community.
The bill passed out of the Veterans Committee, but did not receive a hearing in the Judiciary Committee. The language was included in the House omnibus bill but did not make it through the conference committee and did not become law. (SF 1153)
The 2018 bonding bill included $32 million in bonds for three new veterans’ homes in Bemidji, Montevideo, and Preston. A resolution was passed out of the Veterans Committee this year that encourages the federal government to fully fund their share of the cost of building the new homes, but no other action on veterans’ homes was taken. (SF 54)
Veterans hiring preference
A bill that requires veterans be given due consideration when applying for jobs at the Legislature and in the state courts system passed out of Veterans Committee early in session.
Veterans have a higher unemployment rate than the average population, and disabled veterans have a disproportionately higher unemployment rate than the average population.
The bill was passed out of the Veterans Committee and sent to the State Government Committee, but did not make it any further in the process. (SF 331)