- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2003

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner yesterday signed legislation that will make life a little easier for National Guard troops who have been called to active duty.
Surrounded by more than 200 citizen-soldiers at Fort Lee, Mr. Warner signed legislation that codifies a 1940 federal law as Virginia law.
Under the federal Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act, enacted before the United States entered World War II, active-duty military personnel are eligible for certain benefits regarding legal proceedings and financial obligations that typical citizens are not.
Specifically, under that law, military personnel have certain rights concerning breaking a housing lease and cannot be evicted for missing rent payments. Furthermore, they cannot be penalized for missing court proceedings as a result of service and are eligible for a flat 6 percent interest rate on credit card debt and other loans acquired before they are activated.
Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said he expects to sign legislation under review in Annapolis that would extend similar privileges to state Guardsmen.
Virginia's legislation sponsored by state Sen. William C. Wampler Jr., Bristol Republican passed the General Assembly session unanimously this year.
"In state government, we recognize that life at home continues, even while our troops are at war. Families still need to be cared for, bills still need to be paid, businesses still need to operate and futures still need to be planned," Mr. Warner said, addressing members of the 229th Chemical Company and the 1031st Engineer Company stationed at Fort Lee.
Both units, from Roanoke and Gate City, respectively, were ordered this week to active duty.
Mr. Warner, a Democrat, also signed legislation that would allow benefits earned by state employees not to be penalized as a result of deployment.
Under that legislation, the state Department of Human Resource Management will be required to develop personnel polices that would permit any full-time state employee who is a member of an organized reserve force to carry forward their accrued leave time from year to year without being penalized.
The legislation sponsored by Delegate James F. Almand, Arlington County Democrat also passed the General Assembly unanimously.
Maryland state Sen. Andrew P. Harris, Baltimore County Republican, has introduced a bill that would ensure that Guardsmen receive the same benefits regardless of whether the president or the governor activates their units. The measure has a sunset provision of June 30, 2004.
The bill, which is before the full Senate, would mandate that members of organized militia who are ordered to active duty are entitled to leaves of absence from their duties without loss of pay, time, or efficiency rating in that period.
"We have to make sure that the Guard is treated equally with regards to what benefits they receive, regardless of how they are called up, particularly since many of these men and women could be going overseas," Mr. Harris said.

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