Capitol Recap: A Season of Thanks – Honoring Georgia’s Veterans

Sen. Larry Walker

Friday, November 13th, 2020

As part of the day-to-day motions of life, we often try to reflect on the blessings presented before us, whether it is family and friends that are in good health, job stability or certain forms of economic revival. The month of November is no different and the rapidly approaching holiday seasons tend to add an even greater emphasis on these ideas of gratitude and giving thanks; although, I know this year has presented some rather unexpected challenges for us all. As we work together to surmount the obstacles brought forth by the pandemic, I encourage you to redirect your attention on the issues and people that matter the most. In recognition of that and Veteran’s Day this month, I would like to spend the time here honoring the valiant individuals who allow us to continue living the life we lead: our active and retired servicemen and women.

More broadly speaking, Georgia’s military communities have shaped our state in astronomical ways and their leadership has steered us through some rather turbulent times. We have been fortunate enough to feel the importance of these institutions right here in Houston County, as Robins Air Force Base has, in some ways, defined our community. Not only has Robins Air Force Base contributed to our economic infrastructure through the creation of jobs and added revenue support (a total $3.38 billion impact the last fiscal year), it has also allowed Middle Georgia to become a leader in defense and aviation. Not to mention, our Veterans Education Career Transition Resource Center in Warner Robins has allowed continued success in the years after military service. Given the developmental effects of this area on District 20 and the impact of Georgia’s military infrastructure on the state as a whole, I intend to continue to find ways we can sustain a militarily competitive force, while also supporting the families that sacrifice so much in order to serve. Below, you will find a few of the legislative initiatives that were passed this year on behalf of the selfless work of our military personnel.

The first piece of legislation, House Bill 914, relates to military families as a whole and the sacrifices they make for our nation on a day-to-day basis. With the guidelines established under the bill, spouses of a stationed service member may qualify for a temporary, expedited license for a certain profession, business or trade, so long as they meet the new rules and regulations implemented under the related licensing board. While initially introduced as a means of alleviating some of the challenges spouses have with finding jobs under new deployments, HB 914 has taken on greater significance in the recent months due to COVID-19’s economic strain. Similarly, while our military families have not been immune to the fiscal implications of the current pandemic, HB 914 ensures a certain degree of stability while they continue to work for our safety. The creativity, determination and strength of our military communities has contributed to our workforce in phenomenal ways and they should be allowed to continue doing what they love.   

House Bill 907 subsequently assists our military members in a different manner, through specialized care and attention. With this, HB 907 expands the eligibility requirements for individuals looking to reside at the Georgia State War Veterans’ Home to include disabled war veterans who have served from January 31, 1955, to August 1, 1990. By extending the eligible years of service to go beyond 1947 to 1950, we are ensuring that an individual’s service, regardless of the year or area of deployment, holds merit. Our military veterans have willingly put themselves on the line of duty in order to ensure the betterment of our state and as a result, they have often prioritized their own well-being last. HB 907 changes that. It provides our veterans with the healthcare services they need, as a way of protecting those who have done so much to protect us.

The final piece of legislation I would like to address is House Bill 918, which honors all types of veterans in our state. Through HB 918, the requirements needed to obtain a Veterans’ Driver’s License will be revised to include individuals who served on active duty as an ally of the United States, irrespective of whether or not they were a Georgia resident at the time of the conflict. This bill was specifically created to recognize the many Georgians who served in the Vietnam War, fearlessly fighting for the cause of freedom. By allowing these selfless veterans to receive a specified driver’s license, we are not only facilitating their access to certain benefits and resources, we are also providing them with the level of respect and honor that they deserve. For those that have fought on behalf of civilians everywhere, this opportunity is the least we can do.

As the interim persists, my colleagues and I are continuing to gather information that will make us best prepared for the 2021 Legislative Session. Part of that involves my work on the Joint Defense Commission, representing Robins Air Force Base, while other aspects of that revolve around Study Committee meetings and discussions right here in District 20. The session may be right around the corner, but there is still much to do and I am grateful for the advice and expertise I have been able to garner from you so far. If you have any questions about legislation now or coming up, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I want to make sure your voice continues to be heard.