WDVA VETERANS LEGISLATION – MONTHLY UPDATE
July 5, 2011
The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) provides the Veterans Legislation Monthly Update to notify veterans advocates on relevant legislative developments relating to Wisconsin veterans.
STATE BUDGET UPDATE:
- Budget Passed and Signed – On June 16, the Legislature completed action on the 2011-2013 State Budget, and on June 26, the Governor signed the budget with partial vetoes.
- Summary of Major Budget Provisions relating to Veterans Programs:
- $5 Million GPR Provided to Trust Fund – The budget allocates $5 million in general purpose revenue to the Veterans Trust Fund. Recent budget projections from WDVA and LFB indicated that the Veterans Trust Fund would experience a $3.7 million shortfall before the end of the 2011-13 biennium without legislative authorization. This is the first infusion of GPR dollars into the Trust Fund since 1988. The budget also requires that WDVA provide recommendations to the Legislature on adopting a viable long-term funding source for the Veterans Trust Fund by June 30, 2012.
- Restoration of Wisconsin GI Bill – The budget fully restores access to the Wisconsin GI Bill for Post-9/11 veterans. Furthermore, the budget enhances access to the Wisconsin GI Bill by ensuring that schools remits the full amount of tuition and fees charged for any degree credit course, including online and distance learning courses. For more info, see item #12 in the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s (LFB) UW System Comparative Budget Summary and item #10 in the Wisconsin Technical Colleges Comparative Budget Summary.
- Wisconsin GI Bill at UW-Madison – The budget does not create a separate University of Wisconsin-Madison authority. Accordingly, the provision that would have enabled the UW-Madison Board of Trustees to eliminate the Wisconsin GI Bill under an adopted resolution is null and void.
- Increased Budget for Veterans Property Tax Credit – The budget increases the expenditure authority for the Veterans Property Tax Credit Program by $23.8 million over the biennium to support an anticipated increase in usage. Accordingly, the budget expands the total program budget to $39 million over the biennium. For more info, see item #5 in LFB’s General Fund Taxes Comparative Budget Summary.
- Exemption from the Nursing Home Bed Assessment (Bed Tax) – The budget continues the exemption from payment of the bed assessment for the Wisconsin Veterans Homes. For more info, see item #2 under “Veterans Homes” in LFB’s Veterans Affairs Comparative Budget Summary.
- Wisconsin Veterans Home at Chippewa Falls – The budget approves the operating budget for the forthcoming Wisconsin Veterans Home at Chippewa Falls. Also, the budget restores the requirement to conduct a cost-benefit analysis for the purpose of identifying the most appropriate business model for the future operation of the Chippewa Falls Veterans Home. Under the final version of the budget, WDVA will conduct a cost-benefit analysis prior to contracting with a private entity for the operation and staffing of Chippewa Falls and submit the analysis to the Department of Administration. WDVA may only contract for services which can be performed more economically or efficiently by such contract. For more info, see item D-34 in the LFB’s Summary of Partial Vetoes in the 2011-2013 State Budget.
- Funding Restored for Military Funeral Honors Stipends – The Legislature and Governor recently passed Assembly Bill 148 (“the bill to pay the bills”), which provides $68,900 GPR to ensure the availability of military funeral honor stipends for veterans service organizations for the remainder of the current fiscal year. Because the stipends were funded in AB 148, the repetitive language in the state budget bill was not needed and therefore removed.
STATE VETERANS LEGISLATION:
- Legislature Recesses for Summer – Now that the budget has passed, the Wisconsin Legislature has adjourned the regular session. They aren’t scheduled to convene until early fall. While legislative committees can still hold public hearings and executive sessions, the Legislature is not scheduled to hold any regular floor sessions until September.
- Appointment of WDVA Secretary; WDVA Board Composition and Powers (AB 96 / SB 97) – On June 8, both the Assembly and Senate passed AB 96 / SB 97, which gives the Governor to appoint the WDVA Secretary and alters the composition and powers of the WDVA Board. The bill is currently awaiting the Governor’s signature.
Under this bill, the Governor would appoint the WDVA Secretary. Before appointing the Secretary, the Governor must consult with the presiding officers of at least six Wisconsin veterans organizations. Also, the proposal transfers the direction and supervision of the Department from the Board to the Secretary. Relating to the composition of the Board, this proposal expands the Board to nine members, one from each of Wisconsin’s eight congressional districts and one serving at large. Finally, the proposal stipulates that all Board members must have served on active duty, but need not have served in any particular war or conflict.
- Preferential Hiring for Disabled Veterans (not introduced) – The WDVA Office of the Secretary is putting forward a proposal to create new pathways to state employment for disabled veterans. Under current law, state agencies are allowed to expedite appointments of 30% disabled veterans through the non-competitive hiring process if the applicant meets the qualifying criteria set by the agency. But the non-competitive hiring process is limited to entry-level and non-professional positions. Accordingly, the Office of the Secretary is working to bring forward legislation that expands the non-competitive hiring process for disabled veterans to all state positions. See the following link for more info: Issue Brief: Preferential Hiring for Disabled Veterans. The Office of the Secretary submitted the proposal to the Governor’s office and is currently awaiting their feedback.
- Track State Veterans Legislation – You can visit WDVA’s State Veterans Legislation – Key Bills webpage to track developments and gather additional information on state veterans legislation. Also, you can sign up for the Wisconsin Legislative Notification Service toreceive automatic email alerts relating to legislative action on specific bills, committees, legislators and subject areas.
- Contact Your State Legislators – Contact your State Legislators
FEDERAL VETERANS LEGISLATION
- Senate Committee Action on “Hiring Heroes Act of 2011” (S. 951) – The Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Senator Patty Murray, recently introduced the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011 (S. 951). The bill would implement a variety of practices to increase employment opportunities for veterans, including:
1. Requiring preseparation job counseling to members whose discharge or release is anticipated;
2. Instructing the VA Secretary and the Secretary of Labor to follow-up on the employment status of certain veterans;
3. The provision of additional VA rehabilitation programs for certain veterans with service-connected disabilities; and
4. The provision of VA grants to nonprofit organizations under a collaborative veterans' training, mentoring, and placement program for eligible veterans seeking employment.
On June 8, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held hearings on the bill, and on June 29, the bill was ordered to be reported out of committee without amendments. For more details, see the Congressional Research Service’s summary of S. 951.
- Track Federal Veterans Legislation – You can visit WDVA’s Federal Veterans Legislation – Key Bills webpage to track developments and gather more information on federal legislation specific to Wisconsin veterans.
- Contact Your Federal Legislators – Contact your Federal Lawmakers
For additional updates and information on the veterans budget and veterans legislation, visit www.WisVets.com/Legislation. Otherwise please don’t hesitate to contact our office if you have any questions.
Thanks for your commitment to better serve our veterans,
Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs