A last-minute flurry of bills sponsored by a bipartisan group of State Senators in support of military families, just before Summer recess, ended with one of those pending bills becoming law.
The bill sponsored by Republican State Sen. Joe Pennacchio will provide additional state funding to school districts with students living within military installations.
Pennacchio, who represents the 26th District within the Garden State, issued a brief statement after the bill was signed into law by Governor Murphy.
“This additional funding is much deserved. School districts take on the responsibility to educate the children of service members, and they deserve to be funded,” said Pennacchio.
Summer Recess Sparks Flurry of Veteran Bills
Under the new law, school districts in Rockaway Township and Tinton Falls would receive state money as compensation for federal impact aid they did not receive during the current fiscal year.
Pennacchio noted that for more than 70 years the federal government provided impact aid for those school districts educating children of active military parents, however recently that much needed financial support from Washington has dwindled significantly.
“The parents of these children are protecting our nation. They deserve every educational opportunity, and our schools are delivering on that promise,” the Morris Country lawmaker stated. “Without the injection of federal funds to ease the burden, however it is only fair for the state to step in.”
Helping Disabled Vets
Additionally, Pennacchio authored Bill S-2227, which was approved by the State Senate to simplify the definition of “Veteran, Disabled Veteran,” and “Service-Disabled Veteran.”
“The men and women who served our nation in the armed forces deserve to have access to the benefits they earned without having to go through excessive government red tape,” said Pennacchio. “Currently, there are numerous statutory definitions of the terms ‘veteran’ and ’disabled veteran.’ This makes it extremely difficult for some service members to apply for benefits.
“In fact, there are over 20 definitions of the word ‘veteran’ alone. My legislation will reduce the number of definitions so that the brave men and women who served our country can more easily access the benefits they deserve.”
Bill Simplifies Definition of “Veteran”
The bill would in effect create a lasting commission to oversee the various statutory definitions ascribed to military service members. Its purpose would be to streamline those various definitions, into a less confusing process when applying for veterans’ benefits.
“No one who served in the military should have to come home and decipher which type of veteran they are,” added Pennacchio. “A veteran is a veteran. We don’t need fifty different definitions on the books—it just makes the benefits application process more confusing.”
Free Legal Services
Another bill affecting members of the military passed the upper chamber. Sponsored by State Sens. Anthony Bucco and Robert Singer, the proposal provides active-duty service members and veterans alike with free legal services in civil cases under the Military Pro Bono Program. The legislation titled S-1388 would fall under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
“Thousands of New Jersey residents are serving in the armed forces on active-duty or as reserves,” said Singer (R-30). “Many will be returning home after deployments overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere. Some may have been adversely affected by or during deployment and may require legal help or guidance to re-establish their lives back home.”
“For all they have given up on our behalf, they deserve some help,” Singer continued.
The bill would provide qualifying service members and veterans with free legal counsel by certified attorneys volunteering their time regarding various legal issues such as; family, immigration, employment, debtor-creditor, estate planning, and military administrative law.
Bucco (R-25) weighed in on the pending legislation stating, “Veterans and their family members make significant sacrifices in service of our nation and defense of our freedom. This benefit has been hard-earned and well-deserved.”
Adding; “Providing a program that will offer them no-cost legal help will ease their stress and financial burdens and serve as a reminder of our appreciation of their commitment and service to our great nation.
Bipartisan Bill for School Relocation
Additionally, a bipartisan bill sponsored by State Sens. Vin Gopal (D-11) and Jean Stanfield (R-8) would ensure that military-connected families would receive guidance, support and assistance in navigating through New Jersey’s school systems.
Dubbed the Purple Star Schools Program, the bill specifically highlights schools that provide assistance to children of active-duty military families along with helping those families steer more easily through the often complex and confusing transition period, when a student from an active-duty military family relocates from one school to another.
“The uncertainty that often accompanies military life can make the continuity of education, from one semester to another, from one school to another, and one state to another, a source of deep anxiety for both spouses and children of those who have answered the call to military service,” said Gopal.