LD 1343 among five bills aimed at helping Maine veterans passed as part of comprehensive amendment
Augusta – This morning, the Maine House gave initial approval to a series of bills aimed at significantly helping Maine’s veterans. The bills were passed as part of a comprehensive amendment sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Kinney (R) of Limington.
Among the bills gaining approval under the amendment, LD 1343, “An Act To Increase Access to Postsecondary Education for Maine National Guard Members” which provides tuition waivers for Maine National Guard members attending schools within the University of Maine system, the Maine Community College System or the Maine Maritime Academy.
The other four pieces of legislation were products of the Commission to Strengthen and Align the Services Provided to Maine Veterans, a group that consisted of lawmakers, veterans advocates and other stakeholders.
Veterans benefit bills that passed the House today:
- LD 1343: An Act To Increase Access to Postsecondary Education for Maine National Guard Members”
- LD 1611: addresses the issue of homelessness among Maine’s veterans.
- LD 1612: “An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Commission To Strengthen and Align the Services Provided to Maine’s Veterans Regarding Enhancements to the Bureau of Maine Veterans’ Services”
This increases outreach to Maine’s veterans through marketing and by hiring two additional veterans service officers (VSO). Currently, Maine has 140,000 veterans living here and roughly half of them have signed up for benefits through the VA.
- LD 1625: “An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Commission To Strengthen and Align the Services Provided to Maine’s Veterans by Requiring the University of Maine System To Provide Supportive Services to Student-veterans”
This bill requires each campus of the University of Maine System with a significant number of student-veterans to include an office that provides assistance to those veterans to help them transition from military and help them succeed while attending college.
- LD 1590: Funding required from these bills will come partially from existing resources in the form of $585,000 from the Gambling Control Board which currently has a $3.6 million surplus. The University of Maine has agreed to fund $2.5 million to pay for the tuition waivers for Guard members.
“This is a great day for Maine’s veterans, soldiers and airmen,” said Rep. Brad Farrin (R) of Norridgewock. “These bills address critical needs for our veterans and also provide the Maine National Guard with a tool to help with recruitment and retention. Currently, Maine is the only state in New England that does not offer any type of tuition assistance to our Guard members. Now we’re close to finally addressing this once and for all. Our soldiers and airmen here in the state of Maine are our militia and it’s our job here at the State House to take care of them.”
“After months of hard work, this all came together in a true bipartisan fashion thanks in large part to Rep. Jonathan Kinney (R) Limington, Rep. Jared Golden (D) Lewiston and Rep. Louis Luchini (D) Ellsworth who worked tirelessly to put our veterans, soldiers and airmen first and make this a reality,” added Rep. Farrin.