Veterans’ Affairs Elevated to Full Standing Committee of the General Assembly

Heightened status will afford veterans’ issues and related bills equal standing and priority before the legislature

HARTFORD — After eight years of “select” temporary status, the General Assembly’s Veterans’ Affairs Committee was elevated today to permanent “standing” status for the 2013 Regular Legislative Session, and all legislative sessions thereafter. Committee Co-Chairmen Senator Carlo Leone (D-Stamford) and Rep. Jack Hennessy (D-Bridgeport) joined with legislative leadership, military veterans and veterans’ advocates to make the announcement.

Senator Leone, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, said, “Our nation’s commitment to serve our veterans in their retirement is an ongoing and unending one, in recognition of the enormous sacrifices that we call upon them to make. After many years, the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs finally has a permanent status commensurate with such an important responsibility. This change has been very important to the veteran community, and I am excited we were able to accomplish the task for this new session. I personally want to thank Senator Williams and Senator Looney for their advocacy, as well as Speaker Sharkey and all of the veterans and advocates who worked hard for so many years to make this a reality.”

“I am pleased we are conveying this strong message to all of our veterans and active service members that we believe the Committee on Veterans Affairs should have the authority to move legislation,” said Rep. Hennessy, himself a veteran of the U.S. Army. “I thank the veterans, advocates and House and Senate leaders for making sure that from this point on we may properly represent veterans in the State Legislature.”

“Our veterans have dedicated so much of themselves in service of our country,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams, Jr. (D-Brooklyn). “The elevation of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee to full committee status reflects the legislature’s commitment to helping our veterans transition home and find meaningful employment.”

“We must always stand in support of our soldiers and veterans,” said House Speaker Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden). “Our state is the proud home to many veterans from each of the branches of our Armed Forces, and it is appropriate to have a full standing committee dedicated to assisting them.”

Wednesday marked the first day of the 2013 Session of the General Assembly. At the beginning of the session, both the House of Representatives and the Senate voted to adopt rules elevating the Veterans’ Affairs Committee to permanent “standing” status. Since its creation in 2005, the committee had to date only been designated a temporary “select” status.

“Select” committees may not bring bills directly to the floor of either chamber of the legislature. Such bills must first be taken up and passed in another committee, then brought to the floor by the other committee’s chairperson. Bills introduced in “standing” committees do not face these same requirements.

The decision to elevate the Veterans’ Affairs Committee to “standing” status was arrived at in a bipartisan manner, with broad support amongst legislators of both parties.

Senator Jason Welch (R-Bristol), who has served in both the United States Coast Guard Reserve and Army National Guard said, “Allowing the Veterans’ Affairs Committee equal standing in the legislative process simply makes sense. Our veterans are facing some very difficult issues unique to those who are active military and those who have served. As a member of the committee charged with overseeing public policy related to veterans, I am pleased to see our general assembly take this important step. I would like to extend my thanks to Senate Minority Leader John McKinney and to Senate Minority Leader Pro-Tempore, and Veterans Affairs committee member, Len Fasano for their strong support in this ongoing effort. It’s our obligation to look out for those who serve their country.”

“Our veterans have sacrificed so much for us and we owe them a debt that, frankly, can never be repaid. This long overdue action to make the Veterans’ Affairs Committee a permanent standing committee is a recognition and a promise to our veterans that our state government will not let their service be forgotten. I look forward to using my position on the committee to advance the interests of our veterans this session,” said State Representative Dave Yaccarino (R-North Haven), a former member of the U.S. Navy Reserve who will serve as the leading House Republican on the committee.

The move was also heralded by the Connecticut Veterans’ Military Coalition and many other veterans’ advocacy organizations.

Dan Thurston, Chairman of the Connecticut Veterans and Military Coalition (CVMC) and Past State Commander of The American Legion said, “It has been the goal of the Connecticut Veterans and Military Coalition (CVMC) to have the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs become a Standing Committee. This is a significant event for our States’ Veterans and active duty military to be represented by a Standing Committee in the halls of our government. We are looking forward to continuing our excellent working relationship with the Committee.”

“I think this is one big step that the State of Connecticut has made to help its veterans,” said Wayne Morgan, State Commander of the American Legion.

American Legion Department Adjutant Everett G. Shepard III added, “The American Legion is very excited to hear that the Select Committee for Veterans Affairs will become a Standing Committee. This is an action that we have endorsed for several years and re-affirmed by vote as recently as our November 25th Department Executive Committee meeting. We look forward to many years of support to the Veterans Affairs Committee.”

“This upgrade of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee creates the best access we can have for veterans to the state legislature. It brings veterans’ concerns into parity with other issues. Those who raised their right hand and swore service to their country deserve that. It has been a long time coming. The Committee has already passed a lot of good legislation, like placing the veteran status flag on drivers’ licenses. I can’t say enough to legislative leadership, Senator Williams and Speaker Sharkey, for taking this under their consideration. It means a lot to the veterans,” said General Daniel McHale, Transition Assistance Advisor for the State of Connecticut, and Chapter President of the Association of the United States Army.

“The Veterans of Foreign Wars of Connecticut commends the members of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the members of the General Assembly for their work to make Veterans’ Affairs a standing committee of the General Assembly. As an increasing number of Connecticut’s active duty servicemen and women rejoin its civilian population the Standing Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will, for the first time since 1947, stand poised to most effectively address their needs as veterans,” said Bob Hunter, Veterans of Foreign Wars of Connecticut (VFW) Legislative Chairman.

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