Marking the beginning of the Independence Day holiday weekend, Gov. Jay Nixon today visited the state veterans home in Cape Girardeau to sign into law five bills that honor the service of Missouri's military veterans. At a public ceremony, Gov. Nixon signed House Bill 111, which provides for the dignified interment of unclaimed veterans' remains; House Bill 678, which establishes May 1 as Silver Star Families of America Day in recognition of sick or wounded veterans; House Bill 82, which gradually reduces taxes on military retirement income until eliminated; House Bill 400, which allows veterans who have earned certain distinctions to park for free in metered spots in participating localities; and House Bill 683, which establishes a program to name interstate interchanges after Missourians killed in action in Iraq or Afghanistan while on active duty in the military.
"Our veterans of the United States military are true heroes who have committed their lives to serving the country they love and the American people," said Gov. Nixon. "I'm proud to be able to put my signature today on five bills that provide honor, recognition and benefits to Missouri's veterans."
House Bill 111 provides protections for funeral homes and veterans organizations that work together to ensure unclaimed remains of veterans are interred with dignity, usually in a veterans' cemetery. Once in effect, this bill will provide immunity to the funeral home and veterans' organization from any suit for negligence related to the handling or interment of remains, if they follow prescribed statutory steps. House Bill 111 will limit the number of instances in which remains of a veteran are denied proper interment while sitting unclaimed for years.
Gov. Nixon also signed House Bill 678, which sets May 1 by statute as the annual Silver Star Families of America Day. Silver Star Families of America Day is designated as a day for honoring the wounded and ill members of the armed forces in the state of Missouri, and for recognizing the efforts of the Silver Star Families of America in honoring injured veterans across the United States. Earlier this year, prior to signing of House Bill 678, Gov. Nixon issued a gubernatorial proclamation that recognized May 1 as Silver Star Families of America Day in 2009.
House Bill 82, signed by the Governor today, gradually reduces taxes on military retirement income. The bill authorizes a graduated income tax deduction from a taxpayer's Missouri adjusted gross income for a percentage of any military retirement income. The deduction begins Jan. 1, 2010 at 15 percent of any military retirement income and increases by 15 percent each year. By 2016, 100 percent of an individual's military retirement income will be exempt from income tax.
Also signed at the Cape Girardeau Veterans Home was House Bill 400, which permits veterans who have earned certain military distinctions to park for free in metered parking spots in localities that choose to participate. The law will allow municipalities and local governments to opt into providing free metered parking to veterans who have state-issued tags indicating that they are a Medal of Honor winner, Purple Heart winner, Silver Star winner, former prisoner of war or Bronze Star winner.
The fifth bill signed by the Governor on Thursday was House Bill 683, a bill that establishes the "Heroes Way Interstate Interchange Designation Program" to honor Missourians killed in action while on active duty in the military in Iraq or Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. Relatives of those killed can apply for an interstate interchange to be designated in honor of the fallen military member. (The law defines the degree of relatives eligible to apply for the designation.) The applications, which must be sponsored by a current member of the General Assembly, will be submitted for approval to the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight.
"While we cannot thank our veterans enough for their selflessness, for their service or for their sacrifice, we can at very least honor them with a special recognition, specific benefits, and by ensuring that their remains are laid to rest properly," remarked Gov. Nixon. "I'm honored to stand here today with Missouri veterans and with the veterans' advocates and organizations that worked vigilantly on the passage of these bills. Their commitment to the honor and dignity of our veterans cannot be overstated."