This past session, we worked hard to support our service men and women by helping returning veterans with mental or physical injuries get the care they deserve, increasing the opportunity for our deployed service members to vote, and assisting their loved ones when they are unable.
The following information highlights just some of the legislation that we have passed this session to help us achieve these goals.
If you have any questions or if I can be of assistance, please feel free to contact me. Thank you as always for your interest in the work of the General Assembly and state government and thank you for your support.
This year, we appropriated $1.25 million to the Community Colleges System Office for the important work of the NC Military Business Center. The center helps small-and medium-sized businesses throughout the state seeking to win and complete federal contracts, with a focus on military-related contracts.
We provided $1.23 million in recurring funding to the North Carolina’s Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy, a program for high school dropouts or expellees. It is located in Sampson County and sponsored by the North Carolina National Guard. This program receives matching funds from the federal government equal to $60 for every $40 of state money.
This year, we provided $251,500 in recurring funds for a one-stop academic counseling center for military and Department of Defense personnel and their dependents at Fayetteville State University. This money also funds the development of two 18-month online master’s degree programs in Business Administration and Criminal Justice.
In this year’s budget, we created a provision that allowed us to protect students in our public universities who are called to active duty from being penalized if their military service prevents them from completing their degree on time. The Board of Governors will also establish a policy that would waive the tuition surcharge for students whose academic work is disrupted because of military service.
The Division of Motor Vehicles can now waive the commercial motor vehicles skills test for qualified military personnel who have operated similar vehicles for at least two years prior to applying for a commercial driver’s license (H.B. 271 – S.L. 2009-494). The legislation would also waive the requirement if the applicant has completed a similar skills test while in the military.
A new state law will make it easier for members of the military reserves to renew their drivers’ licenses after they receive deployment orders (H.B. 98 – S.L. 2009-274). The law allows members of the Armed Forces to renew their drivers’ licenses upon receipt of deployment orders and give them a 30-day grace period for an expired license after they are released from military duty outside of the United States.
Legislation meant to ensure that certain special license plates that are available to military veterans are issued to the right people has been signed into law (H.B. 1094 – S.L. 2009-121). The new law is intended to prevent impostors from purchasing certain military license plates including plates that indicate the recipient of a Purple Heart, Distinguished Service Cross or Bronze Star. Applicants for these military plates would have to provide proof that they qualify for the plates.
We have helped pass a new law regarding unemployment insurance compensation for certain severely disabled veterans who have been discharged due to a service-connected disability (H.B. 1124 – S.L. 2009-101). Severely injured veterans will now receive unemployment benefits if they lose their job because of a disability incurred or aggravated during active military service or because of the veteran’s absence from work to obtain care and treatment for that disability.
A new state law directs the state’s many occupational licensing boards to implement procedures to help deployed licensees waive or delay payment of fees and continuing education requirements (H.B. 1411 – S.L. 2009-458).This new law will help reservists who are sent off to war to keep from losing the licenses they need to keep their civilian job.
North Carolina’s absentee voting laws have been improved under a new state law (S.B. 253 — S.L. 2009-537). The law is specifically intended to improve the ability of military and overseas voters to cast timely ballots. This is incredibly important because it is vital that those defending democracy have the opportunity to participate in the democratic process.
Although we had to reduce funding in this year’s budget because of the budget crisis, we continued to provide funding for the National Guard tuition assistance program and for the Guard’s family assistance centers. This money helps our military installations “provide community service and quality-of-life programs for military members and families”.
Uniformed public safety officers will now be authorized to wear military service medals during the business week prior to Veterans Day and Memorial Day, the day of Veterans Day and Memorial Day, and the business day immediately following Veterans Day and Memorial Day under a new state law (H.B. 631 – S.L. 2009-240). Employers will maintain the right to prohibit the wearing of service medals if it’s determined they pose a safety hazard to the officer or to the public.
On June 11, 2009, Speaker Hackney signed a statement of support for employees serving in the Guard and Reserve. Over 20 state representatives joined in the signing ceremony, which took place at the North Carolina Legislature Building.
Honor Fallen Soldiers
Members of the General Assembly honored the life and memory of the fallen soldiers who served our great nation in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan with a joint resolution (HJR 1652 – Res. 2009-30). In the resolution, the General Assembly expressed profound gratitude to the North Carolinians who were killed in the line of duty during these military operations. Each North Carolinian who was killed in the line of duty while carrying out these operations is named in the resolution. Several family members of our fallen heroes were in attendance when we passed the resolution.
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As I’ve said many times before, I hope you will continue to let me know how you feel about the issues that are being debated by the North Carolina Legislature and the challenges you and your family are facing each day.
By working together, we can make Northampton, Vance and Warren Counties and all regions of North Carolina a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Please remember that you can use the General Assembly’s website to look up bills, view lawmaker biographies and access other information. The site also contains detailed information about the state budget and legislative schedules.