By Max Bomber
Indiana lawmakers are working to make the state more welcoming to veterans.
Gov. Mike Pence signed multiple bills into law Tuesday that honor and accommodate Hoosier veterans.
During his speech, Pence compared the packed stage below the Statehouse rotunda where legislators stood shoulder-to-shoulder, to the state’s support for active and veteran troops.
“Support for our veterans is overwhelming and bipartisan,” he said. “People of Indiana cherish those who have served and these legislators are emblematic of that esteem and energy that brings these 13 bills forward today.”
Pence said he is always deeply humbled to be in the presence of people who had served in the military.
“In all of my various official roles—I’m frankly most proud to be commander and chief of the Indiana National Guard,” said Pence.
Pence has family ties to the armed forces. His father served in the military and his son is in the Marines.
He signed the following 13 bills focusing on veterans services into law:
Senate Bill 145 would require the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs to work with Veteran Service Organizations to establish a set of standards for the unclaimed remains of deceased veterans. The bill also allows for the proper burial of veterans with no family members. The bill was authored by authored by Sen. Jim Banks, R–Columbia City, Sen. Ryan Mishler, R–Bremen, and Sen. Erin Houchin, R–Salem.
Senate Bill 154 increases the funeral allowance for a member of the Indiana National Guard who dies in the active service of the state from $4,000 to $8,000. Sen. Brent Steele, R–Bedford, Sen. Michael Crider, R–Greenfield, and Sen. Jim Arnold, D–LaPorte, authored the bill.
Senate Bill 189 provides information concerning attendance records and academic progress for a student attending an adult high school who is a member of the military or children in military families must be submitted to the Department of Education by each school corporation and charter school. Sen. Dennis Kruse, R–Auburn, and Sen. Jim Banks, R–Columbia City, authored the bill.
Senate Bill 219 requires certain profession and occupation boards to adopt rules that establish procedures to expedite the renewal of a license or permit to a military spouse whose husband or wife is assigned to a duty station in Indiana. Sen. Sue Glick, R–LaGrange, Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, and Sen. Jim Buck, R–Kokomo, authored the bill.
Senate Bill 295 expands the Military Family Relief Fund to all veterans. Currently, the fund is only open to those who served after 9/11. The bill also includes new criteria for eligibility of income and use of other funds. Additionally, the bill requires a county veteran service officer to sit on the Veterans Affairs Commission. The bill was authored by Sen. Jim Banks, R–Columbia City, Sen. Brandt Hershman, R–Buck Creek, and Sen. Jim Buck, R–Kokomo.
Senate Bill 304 increases the assessed value limit for the property tax deduction for certain veterans with a disability from $143,160 to $175,000. Sen. Luke Kenley, R–Noblesville, Sen. Travis Holdman, R–Markle, and Sen. Brandt Hershman, R–Buck Creek, authored the bill.
Senate Bill 362 extends the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Acts guidelines to the state level. The guidelines would now include the military service for the National Guard regiment of another state. The bill also allows the military records of an individual to be released to a person with power of attorney, a court order, or a court appointed representative. Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, and Sen. Erin Houchin, R–Salem, authored the bill.
House Bill 1089 assigns the topic of determining the duties, standards, and practices of veteran district service officers. Rep. Randy Frye, R–Greensburg, authored the bill.
House Bill 1187 makes committing stolen valor, a Class A misdemeanor. The perpetrator has to knowingly or intentionally, with the goal to obtain money or another benefit by fraudulently representing him or herself to be an active member or veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States. They would also be held accountable for using falsified military identification, or fraudulently claiming to be the recipient of certain military honors. Rep. Chuck Moseley, D–Portage, authored the bill.
House Bill 1312 allows veteran-owned businesses to register directly with the state of Indiana instead of the federal government. This registration allows veteran-owned businesses to receive greater consideration during the state’s contracting process. Rep. Douglas Gutwein, R–Francesville, authored the bill.
House Bill 1313 re-defines the phrase “Hoosier veteran” to recognize the military service of the individuals who do not meet the federal criteria to be recognized as a veteran. Rep. Peggy Mayfield, R–Martinsville, authored the bill.
House Bill 1359 waives the maximum hiring age restrictions that apply to the appointment and hiring of police officers and firefighters for an individual who is a veteran of the armed forces. Rep. Bob Morris, R–Fort Wayne, authored the bill.
House Bill 1373 extends employment protections to active duty guard members. Also extends the Medicaid eligibility of a service member and the service member’s dependent if they are called to active duty or deployed outside of the State of Indiana. Rep. Bruce Borders, R–Jasonville, authored the bill.
“Our Hoosier veterans have put their lives on the line to ensure our way of life,” said Pence in a statement. “I sign these bills into law as a ‘thank you’ from all the people of Indiana for their service and sacrifice.”