Experience with Military Issues

During most of my time in the legislature, I have been honored to have served on the House Military & Veterans Affairs Special Committee.  I served as co-chair of this committee in 2013 and 2014 and I have been the vice chair for the last two years. In addition I currently serve as co-chair of the Joint Armed Services Committee. I have worked hard to ensure that our military servicemen and women have all the support they deserve.  As your representative in the State House I have been an effective and forward thinking advocate for our military and veterans.  I look forward to continuing to serve JBER/Elmendorf.

LEGISLATION

Alaska Code of Military Justice This year the accomplishment of which I am most proud is passing the Alaska Code of Military Justice (ACMJ).  The ACMJ gives the Alaska National Guard the tools needed to implement immediate discipline and swift justice for everything from low level misconduct to criminal charges. I firmly believe that with the ACMJ in place that the Alaska National Guard will have the tools necessary to deal with misconduct. The ACMJ was a bill sponsored by the House Judiciary Committee, of which I am chair.

Post-Traumatic Stress Injury Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has been a recognized medical condition for many years.  I co-sponsored this legislation to change the name to Post-Traumatic Stress Injury.  This was part of a national initiative spearheaded by the US Department of Veterans Affairs so as to destigmatize this ailment. Altering the name will not change the injury but rather helps recognize that this is an injury and like any other injury is something from which an injured person can recover.  This bill recognizes that many Alaskan service members and veterans suffer from and then recover from Post-Traumatic Stress Injury.

Protecting Our Military Bases The one thing any Representative for JBER and Muldoon should be fighting for is our military bases here in Alaska.  In 2015 I co-sponsored HJR 13 which urges Congress and the Pentagon to retain Army forces here.  Your Representative should be working to keep the federal government from foolishly shutting down our Alaskan military bases. This is not only because of the vital role these military bases play in the economy of Alaska but because of the vital role they play in the defense of our country. As your Representative I will continue to fight to protect our military bases.

Urging Congress to Protect Vietnam Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange  I introduced HJR 25 in 2014, demanding that Congress return medical coverage for Agent Orange exposure to the Vietnam veterans that were stripped of it over a decade ago. These brave men and women served our country faithfully and we need to take care of them, like we promised we would.  HJR 25 was delivered to the Congress and the President and Vice-President and urges them to do to their duty and provide care for the Vietnam veterans who currently do not get it.

Exempting Military Spouses from Driver Licensing Requirements  Our military members come from and go all over the United States to serve.  Many members of the armed forces choose to maintain permanent residency in their home states.  They continue to vote in their home state elections and retain their home state drivers’ licenses while serving in Alaska.  Until we passed legislation in 2014, the spouses of our service members were not able to do the same, thus creating an unnecessary hardship on military families serving in Alaska.  I am proud to say that I sponsored this legislation that helped correct that hardship.

Occupational Licenses for Military Personnel  This is an act authorizing a waiver for active duty military service personnel of continuing education requirements for renewal of occupational licenses.   This bill is important for deployed service members who hold a professional license.  It provides a waiver so that an active duty service member does not lose his or her license just because continuing education classes are not readily available during deployment. I was a co-sponsor of this bill.

PERS Credit for Military Service  Our military men and women have bravely served their country.  Afterwards many of them choose a career further involved in serving the public by becoming peace officers or firefighters.  This law made a slight modification to our state retirement rules by allowing these selfless veterans to qualify for normal retirement benefits.  This was a simple change but a big statement of recognition of their service and sacrifice.  I was a co-sponsor of this legislation.

Waiving CDL Skill Tests for Qualifying Veterans  The U.S. Military is a highly mobile professional force, dependent on skilled drivers operating a wide range of vehicles, often in very harsh conditions.  As service members leave the force and look for civilian work it is just common sense that they should be able to utilize their hard-earned skills in civilian employment.  Now, veterans that meet certain qualifications can put those skills to use to get a good civilian job which simultaneously helps Alaskan employers find qualified and motivated employees.  This is a win for everyone.  I was a co-sponsor of this legislation.

Establishing Vietnam Veterans Day  Alaska has more active duty and veteran military personnel per capita than any other state.  A large percentage of those veterans are from the Vietnam era and they deserve recognition.  I was one of many legislators who supported this bill and am happy to say that March 29 of every year is now Vietnam Veterans Day.  Don’t forget to thank a veteran for service that day — and every other day for that matter.  I co-sponsored this bill.

Securing PFD’s for Deployed Alaskan Military  The purpose of this bill is to permit a person who has a power of attorney for an individual who is on active duty with the United States Military outside the State of Alaska to sign and file a permanent fund dividend application on behalf of such an individual.  Some Alaskans serving in combat zones like Iraq were not getting their permanent fund dividend checks because they were unable to sign their applications. It just makes sense to allow someone who has a Power of Attorney to sign for people in this special situation and not deprive military personnel of their rightful dividends. I co-sponsored this bill.

Creating Hmong-American Veterans Day  In 2013, I introduced HCR 4 which created Hmong American Veterans Day. During the Vietnam War over 35,000 Hmong warriors were killed while fighting alongside American forces.  They served with brave and honorable distinction and perhaps the best way to think about it is that for “Every (Hmong) that died, that was an American back home that didn’t die…”  Edgar Buell, Senior US Aid/CIA official working with the Hmong army.  There are many hundreds of these courageous veterans living in Alaska and their sacrifice has never been properly recognized.  Establishing May 15 as the official Hmong-American Veterans Day is the least we can do.

Permitting Military Personnel under 21 to Enter Private Clubs  This bill permitted military personnel under the age of 21 to enter VFW type clubs. It was ridiculous that a member of our armed forces who was under 21 could not attend a meeting or a function at a veterans club  like the VFW because such a club is licensed to serve alcohol.  Mind you this law does not allow for under-aged drinking, just entry into patriotic clubs.

Protecting Military Widows from Over-taxation  This bill created an optional exemption from municipal property taxes for the residences of the widows and widowers of service members who were killed in the line of duty. For those who paid the ultimate sacrifice it was the least we could do to help the ones they loved. I co-sponsored this bill.