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Whelan Bills To Show Support For NJ Veterans Approved

Bills Would Establish Study Commission to Help Vets Get College Education, Would Encourage Private Businesses, Individuals to Honor Fallen NJ Service Members

TRENTON – A pair of bills sponsored by Senator Jim Whelan which would establish a study commission to make recommendations to help New Jersey vets get a college education, and would allow New Jerseyans to appropriately honor fallen heroes was unanimously approved by the Senate today.

“New Jersey is proud of and grateful for the sacrifices of our brave men and women in uniform who are engaged in defending America and her interests around the world,” said Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic. “Our veterans and active-duty military service members have given their time, talents, and in some cases, their very lives in service to their fellow countrymen. These bills appropriately recognize the many sacrifices of our military personnel, and honor the men and women who are serving or have served in our nation’s armed forces.”

The first bill, S-1961, would establish a nine-member “Veterans Higher Education Commission,” which would be tasked with making recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature to maximize the number of veterans who receive post-secondary certificates and degrees, and to successfully transition those veterans from the battlefield to the job market. The commission would include the State Secretary of Higher Education, the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development, the Adjutant General of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and the Commissioner of Education, or their designees, as well as five public members representing county colleges, State colleges and universities, independent colleges, and a student veterans’ organization. The commission would be required to complete and submit its final report of recommendations no later than one year after organizing.

“After our vets return home, we have an obligation to them to make sure they have educational and employment opportunities to return to,” said Senator Whelan. “The ‘Veterans Higher Education Commission’ will take a look at ways to increase the percentage of veterans who receive a college education, including providing special services to transition them to civilian life, educating faculty and staff on how best to support vets in the classroom, and publicizing the educational benefits that New Jersey and the federal government offer for returning vets. The end result will hopefully be more veterans taking advantage of the higher ed. programs offered to them, so they can be competitive in the civilian job market.”

The second bill, S-325, would require the Secretary of State to create an e-mail notification system alerting private citizens and business establishments whenever the Governor issues an order to fly the flag at half-staff over State buildings to honor the passing of a fallen armed services member. Under the bill, individuals and business owners would be able to sign up for e-mail alerts whenever the Governor signs an executive order calling for U.S. and State flags to be flown at half-staff to honor the passing of a New Jersey military service member, state official, or prominent resident. According to Senator Whelan, the bill is intended to allow flag caretakers on private property to follow the same rules as are applied to U.S. and State flags flown outside State buildings.

“When one of our State’s residents falls in the line of duty, the Governor usually orders State and federal flags to be flown at half-staff to pay tribute to the fallen soldier,” said Senator Whelan. “While there’s a notification system in place to allow municipal and county building to also honor the dead, the general public doesn’t receive any kind of similar notice. This bill would create a voluntary e-mail notification system to allow private individuals and business owners to join with the public sector in paying their respects to one of our State’s fallen heroes.”

Both bills now head to the Assembly for consideration.

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