Veterans bills among the many passing with universal support

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By Niki Kelly

Guest columnist

People are often surprised when I tell them that vast majority of bills that pass the Indiana General Assembly have overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats. The first half of session showed just that.

In the House, 446 bills were introduced and 112 passed; 97% of bills received bipartisan support and 55% received unanimous support.

In the Senate, 297 bills were introduced and 110 passed; 88% of bills received bipartisan support and 58% received unanimous support.

I often forget that citizens don’t regularly see the proposals that move through smoothly versus larger bills that draw opposition and controversy. But there are many smaller measures that address topics or problems that aren’t in dispute.

Just like this year’s bills helping Indiana veterans.

Senate Bill 15, authored by Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, requires state agencies to create a veteran’s benefits and services poster. Businesses with more than 50 employees must place a poster in a conspicuous place. Eleven other states have done it. The bill also requires the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs to make the posters available for business, nonprofit or government agency that wants to post them. It passed the Senate unanimously and is now in the House.

Senate Bill 49, authored by Sen. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange, creates a catastrophically disabled hunting season for veterans paired with the youth hunting weekend. Supporters said when hunters need a guide or special equipment in the woods, they often give up the activity they love. This bill would enable such disabled veterans to keep enjoying the sport during a time when other hunters are not in the woods. The youth hunting season already requires the youth to have a guide. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and is now in the House.

House Bill 1021, authored by Rep. Mitch Gore, D-Indianapolis, creates a green alert for veterans in crisis and defines a veteran in crisis. This gives advocates and law enforcement another tool to help a missing veteran missing by activating the green alert. This is similar to an Amber Alert for missing children and Silver Alert for missing senior citizens. The bill passed the House unanimously and is now in the Senate.

House Bill 1120, authored by Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Lizton, is an omnibus property tax bill that includes a provision raising the value of the home a disabled veteran can use a property tax deduction. Currently, there is no benefit if the home is valued above $200,000. This bill raises the limit to $240,000. This bill passed the House 73-21 and is now in the Senate.

House Bill 1202, authored by Rep. Stephen Bartels, R-Eckerty, raises the amount of an award that can be given from the Military Family Relief Fund from $2,500 to $3,500. It also establishes an annual increase in the award amount in the future. The fund is stable at over $11 million and takes in more than it pays out annually. The bill passed the House unanimously and now is in the Senate.

“For a short session, we are getting some things done for veterans and their families!” said veterans advocate Lisa Wilken. “The catastrophically disabled hunting season has been a three-year effort. I am very pleased to see the property tax issue addressed in a non-budget year.”

Indiana has more than 325,000 veterans living here and they should be aware of the efforts being made to help them.

Niki Kelly is editor-in-chief of indianacapitalchronicle.com, where this commentary previously appeared. She has covered Indiana politics and the Indiana Statehouse since 1999 for publications including the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.