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Governor stops by Quantico to sign veteran-related legislation
By RUSTY DENNEN
Surrounded by Marines, veterans of several branches of the military, legislators and members of his cabinet, Gov. Bob McDonnell saluted service members Friday at Marine Corps Base Quantico.
The occasion was a ceremonial bill-signing at The Clubs at Quantico.
"To me, every year that we advance the ball for the cause of freedom by saluting our veterans, and trying to make Virginia the most vet-friendly state in America it's an exciting day for me," McDonnell, a former lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, said.
"You can tell by the tremendous number of people here from my administration and the legislature, that they consider this an honor and a privilege."
Noting that Virginia is home to 830,000 veterans, not to mention the world's largest Navy base in Norfolk, McDonnell went on, "If we don't take care of the veterans of the wars today, we are not going to attract and retain the best and brightest that America has to offer in the uniforms of the wars of tomorrow. That is what this day is all about."
The governor "signed" 22 bills passed by the General Assembly, and which became law on July 1. Among them: a hiring preference for spouses and children of veterans; expediting the issuance of business licenses, permits and certificates to military spouses who are relocated when a service member is moved; a law making it easier for military serving overseas to vote; and free lifetime hunting and fishing licenses for disabled veterans.
McDonnell mentioned several other ways the state has been honoring veterans, such as the creation of the Wall of Honor in Richmond, a permanent memorial to troops killed in the war on terrorism since 2000; the Fort Monroe Freedom Support Center, a one-stop assistance center for families of deployed troops; and the creation of a veterans' ID card that will make it easier for them to get benefits.
A DMV mobile unit was parked outside where McDonnell was speaking, providing eligible veterans with the cards for $10 each.
Del. Scott Lingamfelter, who sponsored two of the bills, said the legislation was possible because McDonnell and the legislators on hand, "get it" when it comes to understanding what veterans require.
The retired Army colonel and VMI graduate says there's lots of rhetoric on the subject, but "action matters. I used to tell my battalion, 'Less hoo-ah and more do-ah.' It's doing the work" that counts. "And there's more to be done."
Quoting Ronald Reagan, Lingamfelter said, "There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit."
And he added, "That's what veterans are all about."
The governor has been making the rounds this month in the Fredericksburg area. He was in Stafford County on July 18 to sign 12 bills supporting police and first responders.
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431
Here are some of the veterans' bills signed Friday by Gov. Bob McDonnell:
SB 527--Establishes a hiring preference for members of the National Guard.
HB 253--Establishes a hiring preference for surviving spouses and children of veterans.
HB 937--Expedites issuance of licenses to service members' spouses.
HG 548--Expedites education scheduling for active duty military.
HB 194--DMV must consider military training in granting commercial drivers' licenses.
HB 195--Military training considered for higher education credit.
SB 565--Ensures ballot access for uniformed military overseas.
SB 528--Free lifetime hunting and fishing licenses for disabled veterans.
SB 433--Honorable burial for unclaimed veterans' remains.
SB 254--Improves ratio of veterans to Department of Veterans Services claim agents.
SB 297--Grants full voting privileges to ex-officio members of Board of Veterans Services.
HB 190--Implements real property tax exemptions for disabled veterans.
HB 933, SB 22, SB 540--Adjusts real property tax exemption rules for disabled veterans.
HB 1022--Extends grace period for driver's license expiration for active duty military.
HB 573--Flags to be flown at half staff for active duty military, National Guard, Virginia Defense Force and police and first responders killed in line of duty.
The laws went into effect on July 1.