ST. FRANCIS, MN—Representative Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Division joined House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, Thursday to talk with local veterans at the American Legion Post 622 in St. Francis about veteran legislation that passed over the last two years, including one of the largest veteran tax cuts in state history passed and signed into law last month. The provision exempts all military pensions from state income taxes. Rep. Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge, former state representative and veteran John Kriesel, and Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah also attended the event.
"The legislature came together over the past two years to prioritize our veterans, capped off by finally passing the veteran pension exemption after many, many years of work," said Rep. Hackbarth.
"The veteran tax cut puts more money back in the pockets of those who fought for our nation, and the other bills passed over the last two years help make it easier for veterans to transition back to civilian life, find employment, and start small businesses," added Speaker Daudt.
Chair Dettmer said he is touring the state meeting with local veteran organizations to clear up confusion about the recently-passed veteran tax cut. The provision passed as a part of the supplemental budget bill signed into law, and was not part of the tax bill vetoed recently by Governor Dayton.
"It's important that we get the word out about this and other important legislation that passed this year. We've helped veterans keep the pension they've earned serving our country, made it easier for veterans to start a small business, and made changes to help military members and their families transition back to civilian life. I hope these meetings will help spread awareness about all of the bipartisan veterans legislation passed over the last two years," concluded Rep. Dettmer.
A full list of veteran bills passed during the 2015-2016 session is below.
2015/2016 Veterans Legislative Accomplishments
· Excluded all military retirement pay from state income taxes (HF 40 – Heintzeman)
· Allowed active duty military members and their families to bypass the one-year wait and immediately qualify for higher education grants and scholarships (HF 841 – Dettmer)
· Permitted counties to create a private military discharge record registry to make it easier for veterans to access their DD214 and DD215 discharge records (HF 546 – Dettmer)
· Created a waiver system to make it easier for military members, veterans, and their spouses to keep their real estate licenses (HF 3252 – Newberger)
· Provided funding for veteran rent subsidies in Anoka County (HF 2565 – Newton)
· Provided an additional $200,000 to the State Soldiers Assistance Fund (HF 3168 – Anderson, S.)
· Made changes to the state’s Veterans Preference Act to ensure that the employer pays the cost of the hearing and attorney's fees if the veteran prevails (HF 3416 – Howe)
· Made it easier for National Guard members deployed by the Governor to vote (HF 501 – Fenton)
· Increased funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs and state veterans homes by $17 million (SF 888 – Anderson, S.)
· Provided funding for study of unmet mental health needs for MN veterans (HF 2680–Ecklund)
· Provided funding for a study to determine what partnerships exist for MDVA in providing interim housing to disabled veterans (HF 3550 – Johnson, S.)
Veteran-Owned Small Businesses
· Created a state-based veteran-owned small business certification program (HF 141 – Dettmer)
· Made it easier for veteran-owned small businesses to get state government contracts (HF 3109 – Dettmer)
· Established Military Spouses and Families Day to honor military families (HF 450 – Lohmer)
· Approved memorial to state’s Medal of Honor recipients on Capitol grounds (HF 2342–Dettmer)
· Encouraged schools to add a focus on Medal of Honor winners in their character development curriculum. (HF 3167 – Dettmer)
· Provided additional funding for the Veterans Voices program (HF 3072 – Hancock)
· Provided funding for radio programming related to the Veterans Voices program (HF 3850 – Lesch)
· Designated the Honor and Remember Flag as a symbol of the state’s commitment to fallen military members (HF 146 – Dettmer)
· Provided funding for an archivist at the Minnesota Military Museum (HF 1190 – Kresha)