Veterans omnibus bill signed into law

By Tim Engstrom
American Legion Department of Minnesota Legislative Chairwoman Kristy Janigo testifies Feb. 19 on a bill that allows counties to provide up to $300 for community Veterans Day ceremonies, much like how they already are able to do for Memorial Day observances. With her is state Rep. Steve Elkins of Bloomington.

Counties now can fund Veterans Day observances

ST. PAUL — In all of the hubbub at the State Capitol, one piece of business got done early.

The House of Representatives on May 1 passed the Senate language of the Veterans and Military Omnibus Bill. The Senate passed the bill on April 18.

Its author? Sen. Nicole Mitchell of Woodbury, who was arrested for first-degree burglary at her stepmother’s home in Detroit Lakes in the early morning hours of April 22. She was removed from her committee assignments.

The case, however, had no impact on the veterans omnibus bill because it passed the Senate before the incident in question. Gov. Tim Walz signed it into law May 8.

An omnibus is formed by collecting several bills and consolidating them into one.

This is the third year Minnesota has produced an omnibus bill for veterans and military affairs, removing their provisions from the political games of state politics. With three years of precedence, the Minnesota Commanders’ Task Force, of which the Legion is a member, hopes it becomes standard operating procedure.

The bill was HF3454. The Senate language came from SF4429.

This year’s bill had fewer provisions than past ones, prompting its nickname of the “minibus,” but the most notable provision for veteran service organizations is allowing counties to fund Veterans Day observances just like they do for Memorial Day.

Also, the state removed the $300 cap. Now, counties can fund VSOs to run local observances for the two holidays without a spending limit.

According to the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, the bill:

• Makes a technical correction in law that said Minnesota Veterans Homes administrators report directly to the MDVA commissioner. This was a mistake put into law after the Veterans Home Board was dissolved and became the Health Care division of MDVA. (HF4335)

• Authorizes in law the Central Pharmacy that MDVA already operates for the Veterans Homes throughout the state. (HF4412)

• Allows MDVA to lay the groundwork for a fourth State Veterans Cemetery in the Bemidji area. (HF4336)

• Provides flexibility to Health Care funding to use next fiscal year’s appropriation to cover expenses due to the delay in opening and receiving federal certification for the three new Veterans homes (HF5181, sec. 3). This was GTW/MDVA’s only supplemental budget request.

• Allows the grant for Metro Meals on Wheels to use this fiscal year’s funds next year (not introduced as a standalone bill).

• Gives county boards the authority to provide funds to Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) posts for Veterans Day activities. Previously, boards were only permitted to provide funds for Memorial Day. The funding cap was also eliminated (HF3677).

• County Veterans Service Officers and VSO service officers are now permitted to receive discharge papers at no charge from county recorders (HF3801).