The Department of Minnesota advocates for legislation either through its internal resolution process before bringing the matter to the Capitol or forwarding to our National Organization for consideration by our Federal Government. The State session for 2021 was an active session for The American Legion Department of Minnesota. At the Department Executive Committee meeting on 6 March 2021, the DEC approved the following 2021 Legislative Priorities;
1. Military Veteran Offender Restorative Justice Sentence
SF 116: Chamberlain, Lino Lakes
HF 478: Feist, New Brighton
The bill provides uniformity among veterans treatment courts in Minnesota and allows veteran defendants in counties without vets courts to transfer their cases to places with them.
It provides judges with the ability to pursue restorative sentences for veterans facing Level 7 offenses or below but it does not require them to. Judges have the final call.
Most of all, it gets veterans with service-connected trauma, often from combat, to get the VA treatment they need. Good vets courts have a low rate of repeat offenders. Uncle Sam broke them, and it must now fix them.
The American Legion NEC, in 2016 at the Cincinnati Convention, approved a resolution in support of veterans treatment courts.
Other supporters: Violence-Free Minnesota, Minnesota County Attorneys Association, Minnesota Board of Public Defense, Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, Minnesota Commanders’ Task Force and many nonprofits.
Judges and justices cannot weigh in on legislative matters, but it widely understood, based on enthusiasm at veterans courts ribbon-cuttings, that they favor this measure.
2. Congressionally Chartered Veterans Organizations Property Tax Exemption
SF259: Lang, Olivia
HF182: Dettmer, Forest Lake
This language calls for reducing property taxes on Legion and VFW Post homes (the buildings) to 0%.
These places are far more than merely the business operations of bars and restaurants. They are places where veterans organizations conduct their business, including ones that don’t own the building itself.
The business side is almost always a small area of the entire structure. Business profits go toward the mission of the veterans organization as well as costs of the building itself.
The Legion/VFW halls across Minnesota are meeting places for communities across the state, and losing more of them would hurt the local economies and reduce the charitable good performed out of them.
It is noteworthy that legislators often go to the Posts when they want to meet with a community.
By reducing taxes to zero, it will help save many of these Posts from shutting down their buildings. The cost of the structures will be born by the rest of the tax base, typically with overwhelming favor.
3. Cpl. Caleb L. Erickson Memorial Highway Establishment
SF302: Jasinski, Faribault
HF482: Petersburg, Waseca
This would rename a section of Minnesota Highway 13, from the southern border of Woodville Township to the northern border of Blooming Grove Township in Waseca County, the “Corporal Caleb L. Erickson Memorial Highway.”
Signs would be erected north and south of the city of Waseca denoting the name.
Erickson, of Waseca, died in February 2014 when his convoy was attacked by a suicide bomber.
4. Credit for Sponsors
SF413: Bakk, Cook
HF485: Ecklund, International Falls
The bill would allow the state to give up to $250,000 per year in tax credits for sponsors of qualifying veterans staying at Veterans on the Lake Resort in the Superior National Forest near Ely.
If passed, this section of law would expire Dec. 31, 2030.
Veterans on the Lake Resort was started as a camp in 1983 for disabled veterans but is open to non-veteran disabled, able-bodied veterans and active military, in addition to group activities.
5. Veterans Adult Day Care Program Authorization
SF93: Lang, Olivia
HF88: Lippert, Northfield
This bill amends state law to authorize adult day care for the Minnesota Veterans Homes.
It is a program that, pre-COVID, the Minneapolis home already was doing and now performs it virtually instead.
The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs receives reimbursements from the federal VA for the day care program, in addition to collecting fees from the participants.
Passing this measure simply codifies a program already in existence. The homes, under existing law, are allowed to develop new programs base on appropriate levels of care.
6. Minnesota G.I. Bill Technical Changes
SF92: Anderson, Buffalo
HF585: Sandstede, Hibbing
As it stands, the Minnesota G.I. Bill offers payments to veterans for three types of educational expenses: college tuition, career apprenticeships or licenses and certifications.
The new language clarifies eligibility for each component to avoid confusing the three or misuse of the three.
There are several bills on charitable gambling that Posts should follow:
Exempts sales tax on the lease or purchase of gambling equipment.
Lowers combined receipt tax to 6/12/18/24% from 9/18/27/36% with similar trigger levels.
Exempts lawful purpose donations from the gambling tax.
Removes requirement of the outside annual audit, with audits required by the Department of Revenue when red flags are raised, such as late filing, lay payments, failure to comply, etc.
Requires an electronic manufacturer to sell to all who want to carry their product.
Reduces net receipt tax from 8.5% to 4.25% and reduce the combined receipts tax to 4.5% on the first $200,000 combined net receipts, 9% on $200,000-$500,000 and 13.5% over $500,000.
Allows a check or debit card to be used for purchasing of raffle tickets over the phone.
Allows a licensed veteran Post to spend up to 50% of their annual gross profits on the maintenance or improvement of real property and capital assets each year through July 31. It presently is 5%.
Removes taxes and fees from the star rankings. Organizations with more than $75,000 in annual sales and less than 20% of donations may face probation or fine, followed a year later by suspension. It could double the organizations on probation.
Allows a Gambling Control Board member to continue holding office until a successor is appointed.
7. Reduced Fees for Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Licenses for Disabled Veterans
no bills filed
The American Legion Department of Minnesota is working with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to reduce the cost of hunting, trapping and fishing licenses for service-connected disabled veterans.
After coming to an agreement with DNR officials, we will urge the Minnesota Legislature to pass a proposal.
We feel this likely would give the DNR a net increase in license revenue and give veterans the health benefits that come from the great outdoors.
The American Legion Department of Minnesota in unison through the Minnesota Commanders’ Task Force is a voice of one to advance our agenda, which is nine congressionally chartered veterans service organizations working together on behalf of all North Star State veterans. The nine organizations are The American Legion, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Jewish War Veterans, Marine Corps League, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Vietnam Veterans of America.
The CTF legislative agenda for 2021 can be downloaded here:
• Chairman Robert Hart
• Lyle Foltz
• Randy Olson
• Deon Ford
Department staff also are involved in legislative efforts:
• Adjutant Mike Maxa
• Director of Communications Tim Engstrom
and The Commander of The American Legion Department of Minnesota