2016 General Assembly Session – Good for Veterans

We are now in the final week of the 2016 Session of the General Assembly. Each chamber has completed action on its budget bills that are now in conference to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate budgets. The last pieces of legislation are also being considered by each chamber for final passage and forwarding to the Governor for signature.
It was a pleasure to meet with the many representatives of Veterans Services Organizations visiting the General Assembly to include the American Legion, and the VFW. I also spoke to the Joint Leadership Council (JLC) representatives from 23 veterans’ services organizations with 250,000 members at their “Day On the Hill”. Unfortunately the Virginia Council of Chapters/MOAA had to cancel their visit due to the severe snow storm we had in Richmond. I missed seeing all my MOAA friends.
There were 70 veteran related Bills and Resolutions submitted in the 2016 Session. Forty five (64%) were in the House and 25 in the Senate.   The 21 military veterans in the House of Delegates carried 53% of the House Bills. Eighteen of these Bills supported nine of the 12 JLC’s Legislatives Objectives (LOs). The three other LOs were covered with Budget Amendments. In total, 16 veteran related Budget Amendments were submitted, six of which supported JLC LOs. Veterans, our military, and their families continue to have strong support in the Virginia General Assembly especially from their 21 fellow veterans who serve in the House of Delegates!  The House passed 27 veteran Bills, including five incorporated into other successful bills, for an overall passage rate of 60%.

I want to give you an update on legislation supporting the JLC Legislative Objectives and other veterans bills that I think will be of interest. Overall it has been a very good year for veterans’ legislation and budget support. Click here to review the Bill/Budget Amendment summary report.

My HB477 passed the House and the Senate and completes our efforts to build two new veteran care centers. This is important to our area, as the two new centers will free up space for area veterans at our first class Richmond Sitter Barfoot Care Center. I am pleased to report this bill had over 100 co-patrons and passed both Houses unanimously. This was the JLC’s #1 Legislative Objective (LO).
My budget amendment supported the review of our Virginia Veteran and Family Support Program, and a review of best practices of similar programs in other states (JLC LO #3). The focus is on improving the mental and rehabilitative programs for veterans at 35 Community Service Boards around the Commonwealth. Our war veterans deserve first class care!
HB63 supporting (JLC LO #5), Extension of 501(c) (19) status (charitable organizations) to veteran service organizations, passed both Houses.

HB825 and SB437 Bridge to Health Care for Military Medics and Corpsmen (JLC LO #6) passed each chamber unanimously. The House budget also includes $400,000 each year (3 positions) to establish a pilot program. SB 437 has been signed by the Governor.
HB450 supporting (JLC LO #8) provides for advisors at seven Community Colleges with the largest veteran population.
HB96, SB317 & SB26 supporting (JLC LO #9) to establish Veterans Courts Dockets were continued to 2017 following an agreement between Senator Bryce Reeves (R-17), DVS Commissioner Newby, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court whereby the Court will develop the procedures for veterans’ court dockets and then in coordination with DVS work with localities to establish these dockets. As a result legislation is not required at this time.
Two bills HB237 and SB490 (JLC LO #12) that would allow military personnel stationed overseas to return their voted absentee ballots electronically failed to pass this year. The issue is moot as the US Senate Armed Services Committee is proposing legislation to delete the requirement for the Secretary of Defense to conduct an electronic voting demonstration for absent military voters due to cyber security issues.

As the Chairman of the World War II Commemorative Commission, I also carried legislation to incorporate the World War I Commission’s ongoing efforts and to build on their experience to best recognize Virginia’s major role in the World Wars.
My Commending Resolution, HJ48, recognizes our Colonial Heights American Legion Post 284’s 70 years of service to veterans and the residents of our area.
In closing, you can contact me at my home office by email delkcox@house.virginia.gov or by calling 804-526-5135, by US mail – PO Box 1205, Colonial Heights 23834 or by stopping by my Colonial Heights office at 250B East Ellerslie Avenue. I appreciate your views on legislation that will help me do a better job for the people I represent.
Please visit my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/KirkCoxVA. This page, along with my website at www.kirkcox.com, has information on my 44 pieces of legislation, visitors’ photos, the session, my legislative survey, videos of floor remarks, and related topics.


Please forward this Update to your fellow veteran friends and neighbors. I hope to see many of your at American Legion Post 284 on March 19th as we celebrate the Post’s 70 years of service to veterans and the residents of our area.