In a ceremony today at the Missouri National Guard Armory in Springfield, Gov. Jay Nixon signed four bills intended to help current members of the armed forces and military veterans. The new laws encompass a wide range of benefits for current and former members of the military, including making it easier for troops who are deployed to vote; giving greater educational and career opportunities to returning veterans; and helping to return military medals to their rightful owners or their heirs.
The Governor was joined at the ceremony by State Treasurer Clint Zweifel, a strong supporter of one of the bills; and by Maj. Gen. Stephen L. Danner, the Adjutant General of Missouri.
"Those who serve our country by proudly wearing a military uniform know the meaning of sacrifice," Gov. Nixon said. "Civilian careers, college degrees, and time with their families are often put on hold. These new laws aim to help our troops while they are serving by strengthening their voting and parental rights, and assist our veterans to transition back into their careers and their education. They also will help in returning military medals to their rightful owners. Helping in those areas is another way we can thank these Missourians for their service on our behalf."
One of the bills signed was Senate Bill 116, which incorporates the "Uniformed Military and Overseas Voters Act" to require the Secretary of State to develop an electronic system to facilitate registration and voting by military and overseas voters, and extends the time in which ballots from such voters can be counted. The bill received strong support from Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, himself a military veteran who served overseas.
The Governor also signed Senate Bill 106, which, among other provisions:
- Requires professional licensing boards or commissions to accept military education, training and service as credit toward licensure requirements;
- Requires health-related professional licensing boards to establish procedures to ensure that active duty members of the armed forces are able to remain in good standing with their professional licensing bodies; and
- Requires public higher education institutions to give credit for courses that are part of a student's military service.
Senate Bill 117, also signed today by Gov. Nixon, allows veterans who are leaving the military to qualify for lower tuition rates at Missouri public universities and colleges by providing them with resident student status.
House Bill 702, also signed at the ceremony by the Governor, will help the Missouri State Treasurer in identifying the owners of military medals that are unclaimed property. The law permits the Treasurer to make available to the public and veteran service organizations information, such as photos, in order to increase the likelihood the medals will be returned to those who earned them, or their families. This bill had the strong support of State Treasurer Zweifel.
Earlier today, the Governor signed three other bills related to military service:
House Bill 159 waives the requirement to prove in-district-school residency for a student who is a dependent of a military member who is deployed out of state or deployed in Missouri under Title 10 or Title 32, or who - as a result of deployment - relocates to another school district to live with other family members.
Senate Bill 186 contains the language on returning medals and also allows funeral homes to release the cremated remains of a veteran when there is no identified next-of-kin, and the notice provision is met.
Senate Bill 118 includes a provision also included in the previously signed House Bill 374 to allow for the establishment of additional veterans' treatment courts in Missouri.
"The freedoms we enjoy are because of those citizens who willingly have stood in defense of them, even at the cost of their lives," Gov. Nixon said. "Their sacrifice can never fully be repaid, but these measures demonstrate our ongoing support and commitment to them and their families."