State Senator Hugh T. Farley (R,C - Schenectady) announces the New York State Senate today began passage of the New York Armed Services Recognition and Support Plan, a sweeping package of bills that expands benefits -- including providing combat life insurance for all New Yorkers serving in war zones, expanding opportunities for higher education, and lower property taxes -- in honor of their service.
"Memorial Day originally began as a time for the families of Civil War soldiers to commemorate the heroic actions of their deceased family members. Over the years, it came to serve as a commemoration to remember all the U.S. men and women killed or missing in action when serving their country," Senator Farley said. "We are also proposing to create a New York State Veterans Hall of Fame to honor the courage, sacrifice and achievements of service men and women from across the state. This would be a fitting tribute to show that we all know and appreciate our veterans for keeping our country safe and free."
"As we prepare to observe Memorial Day and reflect on the sacrifices made by our fallen heroes, it is fitting that we continue to seek new ways to honor and recognize their service," said Senator Bruno. "These initiatives build on earlier efforts like the Patriot Plan to form the most comprehensive benefits package for veterans and military families in the nation."
"Given the heroic efforts and selfless sacrifice put forth by New Yorkers serving in our military, it is only fitting that we find every possible way to honor and recognize their service here at home," said Senator Balboni (R-C, East Williston), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs. "They give their very best and they deserve the very best in return."
The Hall, only the fourth in the nation, would honor legendary military leaders and everyday soldiers whose deeds and accomplishments both in combat and in civilian life merit special commendation. Included in that group are the 663 New Yorkers -- more than one-fifth of the total -- who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award. The Senators announced creation of a special new website -- nyvets.org -- where New Yorkers can register their support for the proposal.
The package of legislation was announced earlier today at a Capitol news conference, where Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno and members of the Senate Republican conference also proposed the creation of a New York State Veterans’ Hall of Fame to honor the courage, sacrifice, and achievements of service men and women from across the state.
"New Yorkers from Teddy Roosevelt to Colin Powell, and from the battlefields of Long Island and Saratoga to Baghdad, have shown extraordinary valor and courage in the defense of freedom," said Senator Caesar Trunzo (R, Brentwood), a U.S. Army veteran who is sponsor of the Hall of Fame plan. "Their service and accomplishments earn them the special recognition that only a Hall of Fame can provide, as a fitting expression of our gratitude and admiration."
Bills passed today by the Senate include:
> Marriage License Extension -- Extends the expiration of marriage licenses to 180 days for active-duty military personnel to solemnize a marriage (S.5065, Senator Balboni);
> High School Diplomas for Vietnam Vets -- Expands "Operation Recognition," the popular program that authorizes high school diplomas for students called to duty, to include veterans of the Vietnam War (S.2714-A, Senator Balboni);
> Property Tax Exemptions to Veterans of "War on Terrorism" -- Allows veterans of the War on Terrorism, including those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, to be eligible for the veterans’ real property tax exemption (S.2224, sponsored by Senator Charles J. Fuschillo Jr., R-C, Merrick);
> "Persian Gulf War" License Plates -- Authorizes creation of distinctive license plates for veterans who served in the Persian Gulf War or the spouse of any such veteran (S.677, Senator Carl Marcellino, R, Syosset);
> "Bronze and Silver Star" License Plates -- Authorizes creation of distinctive license plates for recipients of the Bronze Star or Silver Star (S.3565, sponsored by Senator Hugh Farley, R-C, Schenectady); and
> Patriotic Flag Sales Tax Exemption -- Exempts military service flags, prisoner of war flags, and blue star banners from sales tax. Currently only the U.S. and New York State flags are exempt. (S.2620, sponsored by Senator Kenneth LaValle, R-C-I, Port Jefferson).
"The members of the New York National Guard have always distinguished themselves as they took to the battlefield in defense of our country," said Senator Marcellino. "While we are proud of their service, there have been too many cases of families and loved ones being left with little or nothing when their spouse or parent dies in combat. This legislation will ensure that this never happens again to a New York Guard family."
"Every veteran is a hero and every veteran deserves to be honored and respected for their service to our country," said Senator Larkin, a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel who is spearheading efforts to construct a national Purple Heart Hall of Honor at General George Washington’s Headquarters in New Windsor, Orange County. "Today, we take another step forward to provide an appropriate level of recognition for the heroic contributions of our veterans."
In addition to these bills, the Senate today also passed a legislation that would exempt a United States veteran or active member of the military from the payment of sales tax on the purchase of military decorations (S.2319, Senator Raymond Meier, R, Western) and would prohibit the sale of military decorations found in safe deposit boxes deemed to be abandoned (S.3091-A, Senator Thomas Morahan, R-C-I-WF, New City).
The bills were sent to the Assembly.
In addition to the bills passed today, the Senate will also act next week on the following legislation:
SUPPORT FOR MILITARY FAMILIES
> The New York National Guard Homefront Relief Act -- Provides $250,000 in life insurance coverage for members of the New York National Guard called to duty in a war zone, with premiums funded by the state (S.952-A, Senator Marcellino).
> Life Insurance for Troops Killed in War on Terror -- Provides $250,000 in payments to all military personnel from New York who are killed in operations stemming from the War on Terror, and includes payments for life insurance premiums for New York military personnel in combat service not covered by S.952-A (S.2947-A, Senator Larkin).
> Patriot Plan III -- Governor’s Program Bill that provides health insurance and death benefits to survivors of public employees who died while on active duty, funds life insurance policies for members of the New York National Guard, and creates new "War on Terror" license plates (S.5436, Senator Marcellino).
> The New York Military Family Relief Fund -- Creates a new check-off on state income tax returns where New Yorkers can donate money for relief grants to families of service men and women, up to $5000 when a soldier is killed in action (S.444, Senator Larkin).
TAX CUTS AND FEE REDUCTIONS
> School Tax Exemption For Disabled Vets -- Authorizes school districts to provide school property tax exemptions for severely disabled veterans (S.101, Senator Serphin Maltese, R-C, Queens).
> Increased Veteran’ Real Property Tax Exemption -- Adjusts the value of the Veteran’s Real Property Tax Exemption to account for inflation (S.4358, Senator Michael F. Nozzolio, R-C, Fayette).
> Free Fishing -- Allows veterans to fish for free inside any New York State Park (S.5260, sponsored by Senator Dale M. Volker, R-C-I, Depew).
BESTOWING PUBLIC RECOGNITION
> The New York Veterans Hall of Fame -- The service and sacrifice of outstanding veterans from New York will be forever recognized through the creation of the New York Veterans’ Hall of Fame (S.431, Senator Trunzo).
> Rensselaer County Veterans Memorial Highway -- Designates a portion of Interstate 90 in Rensselaer County as "Rensselaer County Veterans’ Memorial Highway" (S.4710, Senator Bruno).