TRENTON – A package of legislation aimed toward supporting New Jersey veterans as well as active duty military and their families and dependents, including new programs to bolster educational opportunities and pursuits, was released from the Senate Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. The legislative package, pushed by committee Chair Senator Vin Gopal, ranges from civil service preferences for military service members, to remote participation in government meetings, to various ways of assisting military families and their children along their educational and professional paths.
“Last week, we had the opportunity to once more pay tribute to our veterans on Veterans Day. The truth is that we should pay tribute to our veterans as well as to our active duty military members all the time, in thanks for their service, sacrifice and commitment to keeping our country strong and safe, and keeping its values, freedoms and institutions in place,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth).
Three bills, in particular, concern various levels of support for furthering the education of members of military families and their children.
The first bill, S-3783, sponsored by Senator Gopal and Senator Fred Madden, permits dependents of a military member to enroll in a school district in advance of a military member’s relocation to the district.
A second bill, S-3784, sponsored by Senator Gopal and Senator Madden, permits spouses and dependents of military service members to qualify for in-State tuition in the event that the service member is transferred to another state.
“The military life can be a hectic one, not only for the service member, but for that member’s spouse and children. Anything we can do to make their lives less volatile, and to help smooth out transitions or other upheavals is an investment in the security of our country and just the right thing to do as far as our military families are concerned,” said Senator Madden (D-Camden/Gloucester).
A third bill, S-3785, sponsored by Senator Gopal, establishes the “Purple Star Schools Program,” within the Department of Education, which recognizes public and nonpublic schools which emphasize the importance of assisting children of military families.
“With these bills, we continue to recognize the service of members of the military and support them and their families, by focusing on education, and allowing them to pursue their dreams under what can sometimes be difficult school transitions and relocations,” added Senator Gopal. “The establishment of the Purple Star Schools Program, in particular, would recognize schools that go out of their way to attend to the educational, social, and emotional needs of children of active duty military personnel.”
Other bills in the package include:
– S-2565, sponsored by Senator Linda Greenstein, Senator Gopal and Senator Michael Testa, which increases the allowance paid to veterans with certain wartime disabilities, from $750 to $1,800 the annual state payment made to certain veterans and their surviving spouses.
“Payments to our war-time veterans with certain disabilities, who wore the uniform and sacrificed so much for our country, have not been increased in decades. While we can never repay that sacrifice in full, this legislation seeks to provide a more just and well-deserved compensation,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex).
The current $750 payment for blind veterans has not been changed since 1971; the current $750 payment for veterans with other disabilities has not been changed since 1981.
– S-3758, sponsored by Senator Gopal, which allows individuals on active duty to participate remotely in certain governmental meetings;
– S-2224, sponsored by Senator Gopal, which provides civil service preference to military service members who did not serve in theater of operation but received a campaign or expedition medal;
– S-3166, sponsored by Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez, which clarifies disabled veterans and Purple Heart recipients are not required to own a vehicle in order to be exempt from municipal parking meter fees.