May 2, 2012 | last updated May 2, 2012 11:42 am

Senate Tees Up Omnibus Veterans Bill

The Senate on Thursday will consider legislation aimed at better assisting veteran-owned small businesses, giving court administrators guidance when dealing with veterans, and studying the potential for designating a nonprofit group as a state soldiers' home.

Under an order adopted by the Senate Tuesday morning, amendments to the redrafted bill (S 2241) are due by 10 a.m. Thursday and the legislation is marked for full Senate consideration later Thursday.

With Memorial Day approaching, the House, Senate and Gov. Deval Patrick may make a push to pass the legislation before then. State officials frequently tout veterans services in Massachusetts as among the most generous in the nation and lawmakers over the years have often passed laws enhancing services during the days and weeks leading up to holidays honoring the service of veterans.

Senators plan a 2 p.m. press conference to discuss the bill's details. According to a Senate Ways and Means Committee summary of the redrafted bill, the legislation would:

-- Direct state officials to study the fiscal impact of designating a nonprofit organization as a state soldiers' home;
-- Direct court administrators to make training program recommendations to help court personnel recognize veterans' issues;
-- Require a supplier diversity office to provide additional assistance to veteran-owned businesses, including working with banks and insurance companies to encourage seed money for veteran-owned business startups;
-- Require the state to reach out to service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses to facilitate their participation in public projects;
-- Expand eligibility for food, housing, utilities and medical service supports paid for through a fund financed by voluntary contributions made on income tax returns;
-- Require the Board of Higher Education to adopt a written policy requiring each public higher education institution to develop policies governing evaluation of student military experience and whether credits should be awarded;
-- Enter Massachusetts into a multi-state compact to help school-aged children of military personnel transfer between school districts and states;
-- Ban local hiring authorities from requesting military medical records not requested by the human resources department;
-- Eliminate a $2,500 property tax exemption cap that applies to years six and beyond for surviving spouses of military members whose deaths occurred due to injuries or diseases stemming from combat;
-- Require that the Department of Veterans' Services commissioner be a veteran;
-- Give service members at least 90 days after returning from active duty to renew certain license certificates, including licenses for engineers, boiler inspectors and pipefitters;
-- Require district court probation officers to determine whether a defendant is a veteran, on active duty, or a person with a history of military service;
-- Require court administrators to study the intake and review process, including treatment options, of veterans and service members facing criminal charges;
-- Create a special commission to make recommendations regarding training, licensure and accreditation of veterans' service officers.


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