American Legion Department of Minnesota sets its 2022 legislative priorities

By Tim Engstrom
The Minnesota Legionnaire

MAHNOMEN — The Department of Minnesota Executive Committee approved its 2022 Legislative Priorities at the Fall Conference.

Bob Hart, chairman of the Legislative Committee and 3rd District commander, read the priorities aloud before questions were taken and approval was granted.

The Minnesota Legislature presently is adjourned until noon Jan. 31. Here are the priorities word for word:

Increase the state grant for congressionally chartered veteran service organizations

The annual grant for veteran service organizations has been decreasing over the past several years and has not been updated since 2009.

We urge lawmakers to increase it to $1 million for the sake of bolstering our nonprofit and effective efforts to help veterans in our communities statewide.

Pay a bonus to post-9/11 veterans

The state of Minnesota has paid bonuses to veterans of previous wars but has not yet paid veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We feel 2022 would be within the same after-action timeframe the other bonuses to other veterans were paid. We propose paying combat veterans $1,000, era veterans $500, and next of kin of servicemembers who died as a result of military action $1,500 to show our state’s appreciation for their service over the preceding 20 years of war.

Align the state definition of a veteran with the federal definition of a veteran

This proposal ensures the language in Minnesota’s definition of a veteran is aligned with the federal definition. Currently, there is a small amount of veterans, service-connected, and federally recognized as veterans who are denied state benefits due to outdated language in the statute.

Provide a property tax exemption to veteran service organizations

State and county tax entities claim different interpretations of the property tax laws. Meanwhile, posts are closing as a result of heavy property tax burdens. Zero tax would remove any confusion

Considering that Post homes for The American Legion, VFW and other veteran service organizations do so much donating of time, money and building space in their communities, while at the same time struggling to remain open, the Legion and CTF would like to see to the state give 100 percent property-tax relief to Posts that own buildings open to their communities.

Reduce or make free the fees for hunting, fishing and trapping for disabled veterans

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.

Require high school students to pass a citizenship test

In 2015, the Department of Minnesota advocated for a bill requiring high school students to correctly answer at least 60 out of 100 questions on a civics test to graduate. Opponents said rote learning was not preferable for educating children, but no one says rote learning is the only means to teach civics.

Also, scientific research since then indicates the memorization stemming from rote learning is crucial for how brains make decisions swiftly. Considering the situation society finds itself in, with naturalized immigrants knowing more about the USA than high school grads, young Americans could use an emphasis in civics.

Create an omnibus bill for veteran-related legislation

Veteran-related bills often get tacked onto unrelated legislation in an effort to get other measures across the finish line. Having a veteran omnibus bill or even a veteran-military omnibus bill would keep our important causes away from partisan politics and in the politically neutral space veterans organizations prefer.

Allow military recruiters to enter schools and meet with students

Minnesota is 47th among states in terms of choosing to serve in the military. Further, about 70 percent of Americans between 17 and 24 are ineligible for military service due to obesity, mental-health issues, past drug use, criminal records or lack of high school degree. The combination of unwillingness and ineligibility limits the supply of recruits and is a matter of national security. Recruiters say students suffer from a knowledge gap of what the military is like. Giving students a better idea of what military service is about in the best interest of the graduates and in the best interest of the country. Allowing recruiters to meet directly with students helps overcome the knowledge gap.

Allow Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts organizations access to schools for two weeks in September

This measure passed in 2018, but that was the year Gov. Mark Dayton didn’t sign any bills into law. It calls for allowing youth groups of patriotic societies to have access to schools for two weeks in September to speak about their organizations. This includes any youth group listed as a patriotic society under U.S. Code Title 36, which includes The American Legion.

Require county recorders to document discharge papers from all branches of the military

As it stands, state law requires county recorders only to document discharge papers for servicemembers who left the Army, Navy and Marines. This legislation would add Coast Guard, Air Force and Space Force.

Pursue a Legacy Fund grant for Legionville repairs

Legionville, in 2017, qualified for funding under the state’s Legacy Fund for $220,000 in repairs as veteran-related heritage funding. The Department of Minnesota seeks similar approval of this year, for an amount to be determined.

Provide a percentage-based Homestead Market Value Exclusion

This proposal is a two-part initiative to improve the current benefit for those receiving it and to expand the benefit to more of our service-connected disabled veterans in Minnesota. Part one is to make the benefit based on the percentage of the rated service-connected disability proportionate to the maximum benefit. Example a 70 percent Service Connected would receive 70 percent of the maximum exclusion, so $210,000 of the maximum $300,000. The second part is to expand the benefit to all Veterans 50 percent service-connected or greater.

Provide a Homestead Market Value Exclusion for DIC recipients

The current exclusion reads that the application for exclusion must be made by the surviving spouse within two years of the death of the veteran. This limited language doesn’t allow for cases where the VA may take more than two years to make the proper decision for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) it also excludes the vast majority of surviving spouses made eligible by the recent changes to Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans who may have passed away while being denied all benefits.

Stances on charitable gambling to share with Allied Charities

• Reduce taxes on charitable gambling.
• All mandated costs should be lawful expenses.
• Oppose any effort to remove e-pulltabs.
• Oppose altering the star-rating system.