Weekly Column From The Arkansas House Of Representatives

By Staff, 04/17/17 10:14 AM

LITTLE ROCK – There are more than 250,000 veterans living in Arkansas. We also are home to more than 4,000 individuals on active duty. More than 9,000 Arkansans are serving in the National Guard.

Every session we evaluate the needs of our military and veterans. We pass legislation to make day to day life in Arkansas easier for those who serve and to make Arkansas a place veterans want to call home well after retirement.

In recent months, we have passed tax cuts, tuition assistance and enhanced our veterans services.

Act 141 will exempt military retirement benefits from state income tax beginning next year. We join 13 other states in doing this. Around 26,000 Arkansans are currently receiving retirement pay.

Creating tax relief for military retirees will not only make Arkansas a more military friendly retirement destination but we also hope this will encourage veterans to start their second careers or open a business right here in Arkansas. The new military retiree is between 38 – 44 years old.

We have also passed legislation to provide tuition assistance for soldiers and airmen of the Arkansas National Guard.

Act 741 allows a soldier or airman of the Arkansas National Guard to attend a state-supported institution of higher education tuition-free if the soldier or airman:

(1)  Is an Arkansas resident;

(2)  has completed initial active duty training and is in good standing;

(3)  has been accepted to and is enrolled in a state-supported institution of higher education as a student in good standing;

(4)  submitted applications for federal and state grants and scholarships;

(5)  is enrolled in a program of study leading to an undergraduate degree, and

(6)  has not received a bachelor’s degree.

More educated soldiers and airmen of the Arkansas National Guard would provide Arkansas an opportunity to attract more business and industry as a result of a more educated workforce. Many of our neighboring states have provided this benefit and we’re proud to bring forward this new opportunity to compete.

Act 204 requires the medical board, nursing board, pharmacy board and dental board to waive annual renewal fees for active military members. This would make it easier for doctors and medical professionals to continue to practice while they are serving our country.

Act 131 states the driver’s license of the military member will not expire while the individual is living out of state if he or she applies for an extension of the expiration date.

We’ve also passed legislation concerning military justice issues. One of the pieces of legislation extends the statute of limitations for a court marshall from 3 to 5 years. And, another bill makes it a crime to pretend to be a member of the Armed Forces or National Guard.

To ensure our veterans know about new legislation and changes, we also passed Act 807. This allows the Department of Veterans Affairs to create a data collection system to locate veterans and military families living in Arkansas. The information would be used to make sure they have access to information and resources available to them.

For more information on services, visit the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs website at www.veterans.arkansas.gov.


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