Jennifer DeChant

Jennifer DeChant

The upcoming three-day weekend has more relevance than a day off from school or work.

The military’s significance to our community is obvious by the redevelopment of the Navy base that hosts the new Veterans Resource Center and here in the City of Ships, with the awe-inspiring scenes of Bath Iron Works building Naval vessels. These are constant and concrete reminders of how deeply we are connected to the men and women who serve our country in the Armed Forces.

There is a debt of gratitude we owe to all our veterans and active-duty service members, whether they’re on a BIW-made, state-of-theart ship, a Maine National Guardsman who built schools and roads in Iraq, a co-worker who serves as a public affairs chief petty officer in the Naval Reserves, or the World War II veteran down the street.

Veterans Day is special time to thank them for what they’ve done for us. It’s a time to celebrate them, recognize their sacrifices and renew our commitment to them.

As a legislator, I keep those thoughts in mind every day that we consider matters affecting veterans and service members. I’m proud of what the Legislature accomplished this past session, and I look forward to what we’ll do when we reconvene in January.

One way we honor veterans and active-duty personnel is making the transition back into the civilian work force as smooth as possible. Helping by cutting red tape is the least we can do. New common-sense laws from the past session do that.

One of those laws helps veterans, service members and their spouses work in the private sector by expediting the professional licensing program for them. Previously, they could wait for weeks to transfer licenses from another state or get a new one. The measure also helps veterans with their job training and education by making them eligible of instate tuition rates at any state school.

Another law removes one source of worry for those who work in Maine’s marine resource economy. Lobstermen and other holders of specialized marine resource licenses won’t have to worry that these licenses, which they need for their livelihoods, will expire while they’re deployed putting their lives on the line for us. These licenses will be suspended but active during deployments and ready for them to use when they return to Maine.

A program will be developed for veterans interested in agriculture, thanks to another new law. State agencies will get together with higher-education institutions to create a pilot program for veterans who would like to get into this area, one that is drawing new participants in Maine and makes the most out of the growing demand for local foods.

In the second session of the 126th Legislature, we will consider a number of other proposals honoring veterans. One would extend an existing veterans property tax rebate to those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another would make vouchers for subsidized housing portable throughout the state. Others aim to make health care costs more predictable for veterans and establish an education and skills training tax credit for them.

Walking through the Hall of Flags at the State House, hearing the national anthem in the House chamber and saying the Pledge of Allegiance are all vivid reminders that veterans and military service members deserve our very best lawmaking.

I hope you’ll join me in honoring them this Veterans Day — and every day.

STATE REP. JENNIFER DECHANT, D-Bath, is a first-term lawmaker who serves on the Judiciary Committee.

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