Joined by active-duty Marines, veterans, and members of the General Assembly, Governor Bob McDonnell signed legislation that furthers Virginia as the "Most Veteran Friendly State in America" during an afternoon ceremony today at Quantico. He ceremonially signed 22 bills, including: extending the Commonwealth's veterans hiring preference to active members of the Virginia National Guard looking for state employment; making it easier for overseas military voters to have their ballots delivered and returned more quickly; and, expediting the issuance of business or occupational licenses in Virginia to spouses of military service members.
Speaking about the legislation signed today, Governor McDonnell commented, "Virginia is home to 830,000 veterans and the largest Navy base in the world. We do not take our strong relationship and history with the military for granted. Instead, it is imperative that we continue to further our goal of making Virginia the 'most Veteran friendly state in America.' We must make sure that those who have fought on the frontlines to keep this country safe have the services they need to be productive citizens in the Commonwealth. The legislation I am ceremonially signing today will make it easier for members of our National Guard to find a job with the state, and ensure that spouses of active-duty military members are able to receive the licenses they need to start a business or find employment in Virginia as quickly as possible. It will ensure that unclaimed cremains of veterans receive a proper burial and are honorably accounted for. Finally, it will make sure the absentee ballots of military personnel stationed overseas are delivered and returned more quickly and efficiently. During the last three General Assembly sessions, we have passed numerous pieces of legislation that have truly helped us achieve our goal of being the most veteran and military friendly state - for both veterans and active-duty military. We want active-duty military and veterans to choose Virginia as their home. It is because of their service to this great nation that we live in a safe and prosperous country, and now it is our duty to serve them."
Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-Woodbridge) added, "It is important that we continue to put in place measures that help both active-duty military and their families be successful in the Commonwealth while stationed here. Often it is hard for spouses to find work because they do not have the proper licensing to get a job. We are changing that in Virginia. Because of legislation passed this year, spouses will now be able to receive necessary licensing and permits for certain occupations and professions more quickly so they can find a job. This is a commonsense measure that will help our military families truly make the Commonwealth their home while stationed here."
Senator Richard Stuart (R-Westmoreland) added, "Veterans and active-duty military are an important part of the life of the Commonwealth. These brave men and women have fought on the front lines to ensure our safety and security. We cannot thank them enough for their service and we want to make sure that they continue to choose the Commonwealth both while on active-duty and once retired. The 22 pieces of legislation the governor is ceremonially signing today are important to ensuring that we continue to be the most veteran friendly state in America. I applaud the governor for his leadership on this issue and thank him for his service to the Commonwealth's military community."
These laws took effect on July 1, 2012.
Bills Signed Today
SB 527 (Garrett)/ HB 384 (Cole) - Hiring Preference for Virginia National Guard
Establishes a preference in state hiring for members of the Virginia National Guard. Under the bill, when a member of the Virginia National Guard applies for a position or job classification requiring an assessment using numerical ratings, points equal to five percent of the total points available from the assessment device or devices shall be added to the member's passing score.
HB 253 (Stolle) - Hiring Preference for Surviving Spouses and Children of Veterans
Adds the surviving spouse or child of a veteran killed in the line of duty to the preference in state employment for veterans.
HB 937 (Lingamfelter) - Expediting the issuance of licenses for spouses of military service members
Requires expedited issuance of business licenses, permits, certificates or other required business documents to military spouses who are relocated with their spouse in the military and possess those documents in other jurisdictions.
HB 548 (Comstock) - Higher Education Policies for Active Duty Military
Requires the governing boards of each public institution of higher education, in accordance with guidelines developed by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, to implement policies that recognize the scheduling difficulties and obligations of active duty military personnel.
HB 194 (Lewis) - Military Training for Commercial Driver's Licenses
Requires DMV to consider, to the extent not inconsistent with federal law, applicants' military training and experience in assessing their eligibility to receive a Virginia commercial driver's license.
HB 195 (Lewis) - Military Education for Higher Education Credit
Requires the governing boards of each public institution of higher education, in accordance with guidelines developed by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, to implement policies that award academic credit to students for educational experience gained from military service.
SB 565 (Martin) - Ensure Ballot Access for Overseas Uniformed Military
Adopts the Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act, with modifications, to promote uniformity of treatment and improved administration of election laws for military and overseas voters.
SB 528 (Garrett)/ HB 719 (Yancey) - Free Lifetime Hunting and Fishing Licenses for Disabled Veterans
Allows a veteran who is permanently disabled due to a service-connected disability to obtain at no cost a combined hunting and freshwater fishing lifetime license, or a separate hunting or freshwater fishing lifetime license.
SB 433 (Reeves/Puller)/ HB439 (Anderson/Tata) - Honorable Burial for Unclaimed Veteran Cremains
Provides for a funeral director to provide the names and any other identifying information on unclaimed cremains to the Department of Veterans Services in order for the Department to determine if the unclaimed cremains are those of a veteran. Under the bill, commencing July 1, 2014, the Department shall notify the funeral director within 30 days of receipt of the information if the cremains are those of a veteran and whether such veteran is eligible for burial in a veterans cemetery.
SB 254 (Reeves)/ HB 1121 (Cox, K.) - Improved Ratio of Veterans to Claims Agents
Changes the ratio of veterans to claims agents at the Department of Veteran Services from 26,212:1 to 23,000:1.
SB 297 (Puller)/ HB 730 (Dudenhefer) - Board of Veterans Services Voting Members
Grants full voting privileges to ex-officio members of the Board of Veterans Services, including the Chairman of the JLC and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Veterans Services Foundation.
HB 190 (O'Bannon) - Implementation of Real Property Tax Exemptions for Disabled Veterans
Requires the Commissioner of the Department of Veterans Services to promulgate rules and regulations for the administration and implementation of the real property tax exemption for disabled veterans.
HB 933 (Lingamfelter) - Application of Real Property Tax exemption for Disabled Veterans
Provides that the real property tax exemption for disabled veterans for property acquired after January 1, 2011, begins on the date of acquisition and that the previous owner of the property is entitled to a pro rata refund of any taxes paid for any period of the tax year coming after the date of acquisition. The bill also provides that a veteran or spouse otherwise qualified for the exemption does not lose the exemption solely because of extended stays at hospitals, nursing homes, or other convalescent facilities as long as the real property is not leased to another person.
SB 22 (Stuart) - Application of Real Property Tax Exemptions for Disabled Veterans
Provides that the real property tax exemption for veterans whose disability rating occurs after January 1, 2011, begins on the date of the rating.
SB 540 (Puller) - Application of Real Property Tax Exemptions for Disabled Veterans
Provides that the real property tax exemption for a veteran applies when the property is held in certain trusts, including for surviving spouses.
HB 1042 (Keam) - Expiration of Driver's License for Active Duty Military
Extends the grace period for driver's license expiration from 90 to 180 days after the return from service outside the United States of active duty military personnel, a member of the diplomatic service, or a civilian employee of the U.S. government or a federal agency or contractor.
HB 573 (Marshall) - Flags to be Flown at Half Staff
Provides that whenever a member of the United States armed forces, Virginia National Guard, Virginia Defense Force, a police officer, a firefighter, or an emergency medical services provider who is a resident of Virginia is killed in the line of duty, state and local flags flown at any building owned by the Commonwealth shall be flown at half staff or mast for one day to honor and acknowledge respect for those who made the supreme sacrifice.