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Maryland Veterans Fared Well During 2006 Legislative Session

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on May 05, 2006:

Senator Dyson As we approach Memorial Day, I thought I would update you on some important initiatives that the Maryland General Assembly passed in the recently concluded 2006 legislative Session for our veterans who have selflessly served to protect us from those who would do us harm over the years.

More, now than ever, we need to do all we can to help out our veterans.

One of the key bills we passed this year was Senate Bill 22 which I co-sponsored. This bill will increase the military retirement income exemption from $2,500 to $5,000. It will also eliminate the age threshold so retirees of any age are eligible for this exemption and it also eliminates the income threshold so military retirees at any income level are eligible for the exemption.

The Veterans Advocacy and Education Act of 2006 -- which I co-sponsored --also passed. This bill does many positive things for veterans including: Creating an Iraq and Afghanistan Conflicts Scholarship which will cover half the cost of tuition at a higher education institution; establish an Outreach and Advocacy Office in the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs; provide a death benefit for family members of soldiers who are killed in the performance of duty while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan and establish a Task Force to Study State Assistance to Veterans to make recommendations on the availability and accessability of services for veterans.

During this Session, there was one very ugly day that I hope I will never see again. A group with little children was standing in front of the James Senate Office Building holding signs and wearing insulting slogans on their T-shirts. These slogans were so insulting I can’t repeat them here. What disturbed me and many who saw these children was that the adults were using them to spread their ugly message. The message: They were protesting the current Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. I later found out, as did many of my colleagues, that this behavior was occurring nationwide at funerals of veterans. Legislation was immediately introduced to prevent this from happening in our great state.

I am pleased to report that a bill prohibiting such a disgrace passed this year with my vote. The bill prohibits a person from knowingly obstructing, hindering, impeding, or blocking another person's entry to or exit from a burial, memorial service, funeral, or funeral procession. I am not one to generally support prohibiting protests because of our citizens’ First Amendment Rights. But in this case, I believe it was essential that this legislation passed so that our fallen soldiers can be buried with dignity and their loved ones do not have to see or hear the hateful words this group is spreading.

All too often, the women who serve in our military are overlooked. That is why I voted for a bill that creates a Commission on the Establishment of a Maryland women in Military Service.

I am pleased that many veterans advocates groups praised the work of the General Assembly this year.

“This has truly been a banner year for Veterans’ Issues in Annapolis,” said Thomas Insley, Chairman of the Government Operations, Vietnam Veterans of America Maryland State Council. “More legislation was passed than any other year and the Veterans Caucus has been extremely instrumental to this success.”

The Veterans Caucus was established in 2004 by both Senator Robert Garagiola (D-Montgomery) and Delegate Joan Cadden (D-Anne Arundel) and they have both done a great job working on veterans issues and I am proud to be one of the 25 Senate members and 87 House members of this caucus.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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