I want to focus on what we accomplished for our worthy veterans in this year’s General Assembly by highlighting some of the bills that I supported and that have passed, during session. As someone who never served in the military, I am profoundly grateful for those who did, and do, serve so that we all may enjoy the fruits of our freedom.
• HB 2 Teacher licensure; reciprocity, spouses of Armed Forces members. (Patron: Bell - R - 20) Requires the Board of Education to provide for teacher licensure by reciprocity for a period of one year for any spouse of an active duty member of the Armed Forces of the United States or the commonwealth, provided that such spouse has obtained a valid out-of-state license, with full credentials and without deficiencies
• HB 533 Veterans; acceptance of substantially equivalent military training, etc. (Patron: Freitas - R - 30) Directs the Department of Veterans Services to take steps to promote awareness among veterans of the acceptance of substantially equivalent military training, education or experience by the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation or the Department of Health Professions.
• HB 146 National Guard; employment protections. (Patron: Cole - R - 88) Extends the rights regarding (i) leaves of absence from nongovernmental employment, (ii) reemployment and (iii) employment nondiscrimination that are currently provided to members of the Virginia National Guard and the Virginia Defense Force and residents of Virginia who are members of the National Guard of another state to any person who is a member of the National Guard of another state who is employed or seeking employment in Virginia
• HB 71 Constitutional amendment; real property tax exemption for surviving spouses of certain disabled veterans. (Patron: Miyares - R - 82) Provides for a referendum at the November 6, 2018, election to approve or reject an amendment to the real property tax exemption for a primary residence that is currently provided to the surviving spouses of veterans who had a one hundred percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability to allow the surviving spouse to move to a different principal place of residence.
• HB1085 Public schools; open enrollment for military students. (Patron Yancey – R – 94) Requires any local school board of a school division in which a military installation or other military housing is located to establish and implement policies to provide for the enrollment to any school of any student residing on a military installation or in military housing within the school division, upon the request of his parent.
• HJ 76 Women Veterans Week; designating as third full week of March 2018, and each succeeding year. (Patron Murphy – D – 34) Designates the third full week of March, in 2018 and in each succeeding year, as Women Veterans Week in Virginia.
• HB 737 Department of Motor Vehicles documents; veteran endorsement. (Patron: McGuire - R - 56) Requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue driver’s licenses, permits and identification cards displaying an indicator signifying that the holder is a veteran, provided that the applicant requests such indicator and provides proof of veteran status.
In addition, the House budget includes $96,000 over the next two years to fund a new position of women veterans coordinator. This is an initiative of the Department of Veteran Services (DVS). The DVS women veterans coordinator will be responsible for ensuring that DVS veterans programs and services meet the unique needs of Virginia’s 104,000+ women veterans.
The women veterans coordinator will lead agency efforts to improve and impact the quality of life for women veterans and their families. Virginia has the highest number of women veterans per capita of any state, and the number of women veterans is forecast to grow to over 120,000 in the next decade.