Iowa House OKs bill to support veterans

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Veterans would receive various tax and job benefits under a bill overwhelmingly approved Wednesday by the Iowa House.

In a 94-2 vote, the House passed a measure that combines several of Gov. Terry Branstad’s initiatives intended to attract veterans to Iowa and to support those already in the state. The legislation now goes to the Senate.

“This is a small step that we can take forward to show our respect, to show our appreciation, and to help those veterans as they transition back into civilian life,” said Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley.

The bill would exempt military pensions from state income tax, and includes a surviving spouse in that exemption. It permits companies to offer preferential treatment to veterans in hiring decisions and gives credit to veterans for military experience when obtaining an occupational license.

“This is something that we as a legislative body can do to make sure that we’re not only respecting those men and women who have gone out and put their life on the line willingly, but also make sure that we are moving forward in growing Iowa with some of the best qualified people we can,” Windschitl said.

Another portion of the bill establishes a reporting requirement for Iowa Board of Regents institutions and community colleges across the state. Such schools would have to compile information about what credits are being granted to veterans when they enroll, and the report would then be submitted to the Legislature for review to see what’s being done for veterans. Windschitl said the purpose is to ensure veterans get credit for their skills as they pursue a degree at a higher education institution, and review is necessary should anything need to be changed in the future.

The measure also allows veterans to apply for veterans-related license plates, free of charge. Veterans would have to then pay applicable vehicle registration fees.

“It is a bill for us to be able to recognize the service that veterans have given us, incentivize the return or movement to the state by vets, and provide preference for vets,” said Rep. Jerry Kearns, D-Keokuk.

All provisions had been considered separately at the committee level.

“All these pieces, in being divided up, got well reviewed,” said Rep. Dwayne Alons, R-Hull. “With that, I think we’ve got a really good plan that was put together and fully submitted now as one big package.”

Alons said other legislation for veterans, including a bill intended to expand funding for a veteran home ownership program, is still being considered.

Branstad has made bills related to veterans a priority this session.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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