From an objective standpoint, this was a great year for veterans and the Minnesota National Guard as DFLers worked hard to build upon recent legislative successes in these issue areas.
Importantly, unlike most major issue areas at the Legislature, the Veteran Affairs and National Guard provisions were passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Walz. The effort to pass a Veterans and Military Affairs Omnibus bill were largely successful due to these provisions being removed from the broader State Government and Transportation Omnibus bill.
Without question, it was due to DFL efforts to invest more money into veterans and their families, bolster efforts to assist veterans experiencing housing insecurity, and allocating additional resources to veteran support groups, that made the difference in this year’s budget.
Veterans and Military Affairs Supplemental Finance and Policy Omnibus Bill (SF 4233)
The bill appropriates $52.35 million in additional funding to the Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs and the Minnesota National Guard. This funding is in addition to these departments receiving their full budget requests last session.
Notable veterans provisions include:
Veterans and Gold Star Family Bonus Pay
Nearly $25 million in new funding will be distributed as service bonus checks to post-9/11 veterans and Gold Star families. While Senate Republicans failed to include this assistance within their bill, this was a major priority for House DFLers who fought hard to ensure it was included in the final package.
Bonus amounts will be $600 for those who did not serve in Afghanistan or Iraq, $1,200 for those who did, and $2,000 for Gold Star families of veterans who lost their lives in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Bemidji, Montevideo, and Preston veterans homes
The bill contains roughly $27 million in additional funding for the veterans homes, currently under construction, in Bemidji, Montevideo, and Preston. This additional funding will provide for the furnishing of the homes and includes funding to incorporate aspects of the projects that were eliminated due to budget costs on the project.
Veteran Stable Housing Initiatives
Under the bill, $8.22 million in additional funding is allocated to addressing veteran housing issues. Under the bill:
Grants to County Veteran Service Offices
Provides roughly $1.4 million to the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs to support efforts to reintegrate new veterans into society through the County Service Offices. For almost 30 years, the Legislature has funded grants to County Veterans Service Offices. These CVSOs throughout Minnesota use this funding to provide outreach and support for new veterans reintegrating to society and to older veterans.
Grants to Veteran Service Organizations
The bill allocates an additional $441,000 to various Veteran Service Organizations like the American Legion, the VFW, Disabled American Veterans, the Order of the Purple Heart, and a few others. Since 2009, the amount appropriated by the Legislature for VSO grants has been $353,000 per year. The omnibus bill increases that to $500,000 each year starting in FY23.
Redwood Falls veterans cemetery
Roughly $2.5 million in additional funding will be used to cover operating and other expenses for the new Redwood Falls veterans cemetery that received base funding in last year’s legislative session.
New Fisher House in Fargo Minnesota
The bill appropriates $500,000 in FY 2023 to support the creation of a Fisher House by the Fargo VA Medical Center. The Fisher House program provides temporary lodging to veterans and their families while they receive medical treatment at the VA.
Big Marine Lake Veterans Campground: HF 2863 (DETTMER)
The bill includes $774,000 to address wastewater treatment expenses at a veteran campground on Big Marine Lake.
Notable veterans policy provisions:
Veteran Drivers license expansion
Will add retired members of the National Guard or a reserve component of the US Armed Forces to the list of veterans who are eligible to have a graphic or written designation of their service on their Minnesota driver’s license or ID after paying the applicable fee and makes other technical changes.
Notable military provisions include:
National Guard Enlistment Incentives
The bill contains $4 million in additional funding for the Minnesota National Guard to utilize in maintaining force levels by providing additional financial incentives for members of the National Guard to reenlist or citizens to enlisting within the service.
USS Minneapolis-St. Paul Commissioning
$200,000 was earmarked to cover the celebratory costs to commissioning the USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul in the Port of Duluth-Superior. This is the first commissioning of the US Navy warship within these waters.
Additional standalone bills that passed this session:
HF 1442 (LANG, Howe) Minnesota Code of Military Justice (MCMJ) modified, data provision changes made, requirements and qualifications modified, jurisdictional and appellate changes made, punitive article updates provided, punishable offenses provided, and penalties provided.
This bill was passed unanimously and aligns Minnesota’s military justice code with the federal government and makes additional technical corrections. This bill was heard last session and was passed by both the House and the Senate. It now heads to Governor Walz for his signature. As an agency bill, it’s expected he will sign it.
HF 3001 Certificate of discharge from the armed forces of the United States of America permission to be recorded with the county recorder without a fee
The bill was passed by wide bipartisan margins this session and would expand fee waiver eligibility to all members of the U.S. armed forces to record their discharge, release, or transfer status with the county recorder. Current law applies to members of the United States Army, Navy, and Marine Corps.