By Greg Remus / For the Enterprise
The results are in from the recent legislative session. The needs of the veterans of Minnesota were recognized and supported with one big surprise. The surprise came when an appropriation for $18.9 million was included for completion of the replacement of a Minneapolis Veterans Home dormitory.
If you recall, last year on the last day of the legislative session the much awaited Vikings stadium was approved and simultaneously the Minneapolis Veterans Home was left high and dry.
The Minneapolis Veterans Home is the oldest facility of the five homes in Minnesota. The state was in the process of demolishing and rebuilding Building 17 at the Minneapolis Veterans Home. The first half of the building was demolished and rebuilt in 2011-12. The demolition and rebuilding of the other half of the building was to be done in 2012-2013.
This was to be a 100 bed skilled nursing facility. The state was to pay just over $25 million with a federal match of $17 million (which had already been approved and received.) The bonding request of $25,420,000 was removed and replaced with funding of $3,050,000.
This meant the demolishing could proceed but the rebuild was cancelled and the matching federal funds were sent back. Now, the much needed facility will be completed as it appears the matching funds may be available at the federal level.
Other legislation approved included:
n A new appropriation of $9 million to the Department of Veterans Affairs. $5 million will be used to upgrade the Department’s information technology systems. $1 million will go toward the Minnesota GI Bill, $2.2 million will go to County Veteran Service Officer grants, $425,000 will go toward a new veterans’ cemetery in Fillmore County, $400,000 will go to compensate honor guards at funerals, and $200,000 will go toward a Gold Star program for the families of deceased veterans.
n $250,000 for the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans for their program in helping homeless veterans.
n A bill that removes restrictions on military personnel who are qualified in law enforcement to take a reciprocity exam to become a licensed civilian peace officer.
n A law that requires Minnesota state colleges and universities to allow credit for courses taken by military personnel if they meet certain standards.
n A law at would exempt veterans service organizations from state taxes if they are a 501(c) 19 non-profit organization.
n A bill that allows a new plaque to be placed in the Court of Honor at the Capitol recognizing the contributions of American Indian veterans.
n Grants were approved to the Disabled American Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, AMVETS, and Paralyzed Veterans of America. The grants are to ensure these organizations continue to provide representation at the VA Regional Office to veterans applying for benefits.
n Those who are 100 percent service-connected disabled can get a permanent card showing their status and eligibility for free hunting. MN Department of Veterans Affairs in conjunction with other State agencies will be developing the guidelines in the next few months.
It was very apparent the Minnesota Legislature acknowledged the value of our veterans.