Lawmaker touts veterans legislation

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, November 12, 2008

District 92 Rep. Becky Currie provided a little insight into theMississippi Legislature’s dealings with veterans Tuesday night atthe Veterans Day meeting of Brookhaven’s John Edwards Post 12 ofthe American Legion.

Although most legislation concerning veterans’ rights andprivileges comes from Congress, she said, the state’s lawmakershave had some successes – and some failures – in the fight toprovide more security for veterans.

One of the best attempts to take care of veterans, Currie said,was a bill allowing those newly arrived home from service to enterthe teaching field. The bill allows veterans to teach school withonly a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certification course.

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“We have the bridge to make these vets teachers,” Currie said.”We’re having the biggest complaints about lack of discipline inour school systems. Having a Marine as a teacher should helpalleviate that problem.”

Gov. Haley Barbour also signed into law this year a bill waivingthe requirement that a veteran have been a resident of the statebefore two years before being eligible for burial in theMississippi State Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Newton County.

Currie said the Legislature is also responsible for approvingthe budgets for the state’s four veterans nursing homes in Collins,Jackson, Kosciusko and Oxford, as well as supporting theMississippi National Guard with state funds.

Not everything the Legislature has tried has worked, Currieadmitted.

House Bill 664, which would have waived tuition and other feesfor the children of veterans killed in the line of duty, died in aSenate committee earlier this year. Even though the bill didn’tmake it, Currie said she was still proud to have been a part of itin the House, where it passed.

“It was a great bill, and I enjoyed working on it,” shesaid.

Currie said there are a few more veterans issues she is itchingto tackle in the Legislature, especially the fee for residency inthe four veterans homes, which is more than $50 per day.

“I don’t know why a vet has to pay anything to be in thosenursing homes,” Currie vented. “They have taken care of us, and Idon’t know why we would charge a veteran.”

Currie said she would attempt to bring that issue up during the2009 session, and may try another run at the tuition bill. She saidit was too early to tell how the attempts would go, as the heavierpreparations for the session have not yet begun.

No matter how the session plays out, Currie said she would votefor any legislation that supports Mississippi’s veterans.

Post 12 Chaplain and Adjutant the Rev. W.A. Matthews updated thelegion on Veterans Day preparations earlier this week, pointing outthat more than 700 American flags had been placed on veterans’graves in city and a few church cemeteries. He estimated there aremore than 1,000 veterans buried in Lincoln County, dating from theSpanish-American War to Vietnam.