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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 6, 2016
Senator Crawford Introduces Legislation to Protect Offutt Air Force Base and Other Military Installations
Crawford Also Introduces Job Protection Bill for National Guard Members
LINCOLN — District 45 State Senator Sue Crawford of Bellevue introduced a pair of bills this morning to protect Offutt Air Force Base and other Nebraska military installations and also protect jobs for National Guard members.
LB 754 would establish a Military and Veterans Commission to help Nebraska preserve and protect military installations, including Offutt Air Force Base. Most importantly, it would create a point person for all military matters in the state.
“The Military and Veterans Commission would streamline our efforts to both protect and grow military assets and missions,” Crawford said. “By having a point of contact in place and active participation from relevant government agencies, elected officials, county officials, local business leaders and active duty or retired military officials, we can be more proactive with our state’s military interests.”
Jeff Mikesell, Senior Military Liaison with the Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership, says the point person this bill would create is very important.
“In order to remain competitive in the current Department of Defense fiscal environment, we need to have a defined, organized point person through whom all military matters can be directed,” Mikesell said. “This Military Commission will safeguard and enhance the military assets within Nebraska and seek to gain new missions and assets for our state.”
Establishing this commission would put Nebraska in line with other states that have taken this proactive approach. At least 32 states and Guam currently have military advisory bodies, either as a commission, task force or council.
Crawford says the Military and Veterans Commission would also enhance the military-friendly environment for veterans, service members and their families and strengthen the environment for businesses that bring military and base-related jobs to the state. It would also serve as a liaison to elected officials.
“It would also create a mechanism to inform the Nebraska Legislature about the impact of policies and programs on military communities and families so the state can do its part to respond to needs,” Crawford said.
The other military-friendly bill Senator Crawford introduced today was LB 753.
LB 753 would ensure job protections for National Guard members who live in another state but cross the border to work in Nebraska. Current law only provides job protections for those who go into the National Guard service if they work and live in the same state.
“Those National Guard members who work in Nebraska and serve our country through Guard duty in another state should have the same job protections as those who live and work in the same state,” Crawford said. “This legislation will close an unnecessary loophole and allow service members and their families the peace of mind they need while they sacrifice for our country.”
Neighboring states, including Missouri and Kansas, have laws that cover those who serve in a different state from which they work. Those existing laws provide protection for our Guard members who work in Kansas and Missouri. Iowa is also entertaining legislative action to address this issue in their upcoming session. Legislation in Iowa would likewise provide employment protections to Nebraskan Guard members who work in Iowa. There are 228 Nebraska National Guard members who work outside the state.
Martin Dempsey, Midwest Regional Liaison in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, said this legislation is important. Dempsey’s region includes Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota.
“Members of the National Guard deserve employment protection regardless of whether they work in the same state where they mobilize,” Dempsey said. “Seventeen states currently provide protections, and the Department of Defense appreciates the Nebraska Legislature considering policy that addresses this important issue.”
In addition to the bills Senator Crawford introduced this morning, she also has another carryover bill to help military retirees. LB 267 would exempt part of military retirement income from state individual income tax. In 2014, The Nebraska Legislature passed LB 987, which provided a partial exemption only for those who retire on or after July 18, 2012. LB 267 would include military retirees who left the service before July 18, 2012.
“The limited tax benefit previously passed sends the wrong message to those Nebraskans who have already invested in our state,” Crawford said. “LB 267 fixes the previous flawed legislation and covers those who have already made a commitment to our state and communities.”
LB 267 is currently in the Revenue Committee.