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11/8/2017 Several veterans’ bills signed by governor
STATE HOUSE –Governor Raimondo signed several pieces of legislation involving Rhode Island’s veterans at a ceremonial bill signing held in the State Room of the State House this week.

“There is no doubt in our minds that we – as a government, as a state, as a people – owe an extraordinary debt to those who have served and are serving in our nation’s military and defending the freedom and rights we all enjoy. With that said, we cannot do enough to assist our veterans, active duty military and their spouses for they are truly a valuable asset to our community,” said Sen. Walter S. Felag, Jr., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Special Legislation and Veterans’ Affairs (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton).

“Our veterans have bravely sacrificed so much for us all and they deserve to be treated as the heroes they are, with dignity, gratitude, and respect.  I will never stop fighting for veterans’ rights up at the State House because they deserve nothing less after fighting for us all,” said Rep. Samuel A. Azzinaro, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (D-Dist. 37, Westerly).

The first bill (2017-H 6061aa / 2017-S 1000), sponsored by Chairman Azzinaro and Sen. James A. Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton), designates October 23rd  as a day to commemorate the nine Rhode Island marines killed in the 1983 terrorist attack in Beirut, Lebanon.

“These nine heroes from Rhode Island committed the ultimate sacrifice to defend the principles and ideals that America so cherishes.  They deserve our commemoration and our respect and this day will memorialize their honor and duty to our country that these brave marines so thoroughly deserve,” said Senator Seveney.

The second bill (2017-H 5280A / 2017-S 0085A), sponsored by Rep. Michael A. Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket) and Sen. Marc A. Cote (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield), gives veteran-owned small businesses a preference in the state purchasing process, akin to the benefit that is awarded women-owned and minority-owned businesses. The legislation sets a goal that at least 3 percent of the total value of all state contracts available to businesses in each fiscal year be awarded to those owned by veterans.

“A veteran’s preference is a way to use the power of state contracts in a way that upholds our state’s values of supporting our veterans. But we think it’s also a smart investment for the state. Veterans have already proven themselves disciplined, hard workers who are committed to the job. That’s exactly what we should be looking for when we sign contracts,” said Representative Morin.

“Rhode Islanders are very appreciative of veterans. I’m sure our citizens will be proud that the state contracts that their tax dollars fund will have the additional benefit of supporting veterans under this bill,” said Senator Cote, who has been pushing for the bill since 2014. “One of the best ways our state can thank veterans for the sacrifices they made for our country is to help ensure they are employed after they are discharged. A veterans’ preference in state contracts is a way we can leverage the state’s buying power to do just that and help veteran-owned businesses succeed.”

The third bill (2017-H 5766A / 2017-S 0540A), sponsored by Rep. Julie A. Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter) and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), expands the eligibility of Gold Star license plates by making the plate available to not only the parents of deceased military members killed in action, but also to other family members who are eligible to receive a gold star lapel button, which include widows or widowers, step or adoptive parents, children or stepchildren, and siblings or half-siblings.

“It is important that we not only recognize our brave men and women of the armed forces, but also their family members who sacrifice just as much as their fallen kin.  These license plates will serve as a reminder of the true cost of freedom we enjoy in this country,” said Representative Casimiro.

“This is a small token to honor not only our brave men and women who have committed the ultimate sacrifice in battle, but also to their family members who have lost their loved ones while they defend and fight for our country and our freedoms abroad,” said Senator Lynch Prata.

The fourth bill (2017-H 6315 / 2017-S 0816), sponsored by Rep. Camille Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) and Chairman Felag, provides for amendments to the veterans' services strategic plan advisory committee to provide effective support for veterans and to collaborate and coordinate existing state, federal, and private veterans' services to meet and exceed the needs and expectations of Rhode Island veterans and their families.

The fifth bill (2017-H 6342 / 2017-S 0984), sponsored by Chairman Azzinaro and Chairman Felag, names one of the two conference rooms in the new Rhode Island Veterans Home as the "1st Sergeant P. Andrew McKenna US Army 7th Special Forces Group Memorial Conference Room."  First Sergeant Peter Andrew McKenna, Jr., a seventeen year veteran of the Army and a Bristol resident, was killed in August of 2015 while serving his country in Afghanistan.

The last bill (2017-H 6341 / 2017-S 0985), also sponsored by Chairman Azzinaro and Chairman Felag, names the other of the two conference rooms in the new Rhode Island Veterans Home as the "S. Michael Minutelli Memorial Conference Room.” S. Michael Minutelli was a Bristol resident, veteran, and a Veterans Advocate for Vietnam Era Veterans Association of America up until his death in 2012.

At a ceremonial bill signing at the State House, Governor Raimondo, joined by sponsors and supporters of the legislation, signed several bills relating to Rhode Island’s veterans

For more information, contact:
Andrew Caruolo, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903