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Romney, Officials Celebrate National Guard Week

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Governor files "Welcome Home II" bill to help soldiers and their families

Declaring it "National Guard Week" in Massachusetts, Governor Mitt Romney today filed legislation to help soldiers and their families more easily meet the demands of military service. Dubbed "Welcome Home II," the legislation is a successor bill to the comprehensive veterans benefits package the Governor signed into law last year.

Romney announced the bill filing at the State House, where he was joined by military families, legislative leaders and members of the Massachusetts National Guard command staff.

"Our soldiers and the families that give them support make countless sacrifices every day to help keep our homeland secure," said Romney. "It is my hope that this bill will make their lives a little easier and demonstrate the deep gratitude we feel for their dedication and commitment."

The Welcome Home II bill offers a number of ways to help military families in the areas of employment, voting and tax policy. Specifically, the bill will:

* Allow municipalities to charge less than eight percent interest when a real estate property tax deferral is granted for active military personnel who have financial hardship due to being deployed;
* Allow a military spouse to renew a temporary certificate to teach during the period of active military duty for his or her spouse;
* Codify the case by case determination that allows military spouses to receive unemployment insurance if his or her spouse is permanently reassigned out of Massachusetts; and,
* Extend any professional license that may expire because of active military duty until 90 days after discharge from active military service and waive any associated renewal fee.

"It is critical that our service members be given every opportunity to stay connected to home even while they are serving abroad. Those who wear the uniform should not be penalized or cut out of the electoral process because they choose to serve," said Representative Anthony J. Verga, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans & Federal Affairs.

"As a member of the National Guard, I know how important it is for the Commonwealth to adapt to the growing needs of our armed forces and activated Guard and Reserve," said Senator Scott Brown. "This legislation will address many issues of great concern to me and my fellow Guardsmen."

"While soldiers and sailors are aboard defending and expanding the right to vote, we need to take steps to ensure that our troops are guaranteed the right to vote back home," said Rep. James Vallee, a major in the Army National Guard. "I commend Governor Romney and Secretary Galvin for working together in a bi-partisan fashion to craft this legislation."

In the area of state elections law, Romney's proposal asks the Secretary of the Commonwealth to set up a system to facilitate secure electronic voting for soldiers who are posted abroad and, in the case of emergency, to designate alternate methods for handling absentee ballots. Currently, soldiers serving abroad must submit their ballots by regular mail, often resulting in delays or missed votes.

"This legislation is designed to ensure that the voting rights of our citizens in uniform are protected and their votes counted while they are serving around the country and the world to protect our nation," said Secretary William F. Galvin.

"I think it's appropriate that during Massachusetts National Guard Week our citizen soldiers are answering the call supporting our communities during this state of emergency," said Brigadier General Oliver J. Mason Jr., the adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard. "This legislation is a fitting way to honor Guard members' service to our state and nation."

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