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Feb 27, 2013
Governor Jindal Pledges Support for Veterans with New Legislative Proposals

BATON ROUGE – Today, Governor Bobby Jindal unveiled three legislative proposals he will pursue during the upcoming legislative session in support of Louisiana veterans. 

Governor Jindal said, “We have a duty to respect and care for the brave men and women who put their lives on the line in defense of our freedom and values. These new proposals will continue to build on the positive steps we have already taken in support of Louisiana veterans and their families by honoring their sacrifice and providing them with the care they have earned after leaving active service.” 

First, Governor Jindal will pursue legislation to create penalties for those who fraudulently take advantage of veteran business incentives.

Currently, the federal government, states, and many private sector companies administer programs that give preference to doing business with veteran-owned businesses. These programs afford veteran-owned businesses special benefits to help in start-ups or offer incentives to grow their businesses. Governor Jindal noted that these economic programs can attract impersonators who see the potential for financial gain. 

In 2009, the state began a program called LAVETBIZ, which sets a target of seven percent of state contracts that should be awarded to veterans by giving them certification as a veteran-owned business and tagging them in state competitive bid processes. The process is currently self-regulating and organizations self-report on whether they are veteran-owned, making it easier for fraudulent listings. 

Governor Jindal’s proposed legislation will protect veteran-owned businesses from fraudulent competition by criminalizing the impersonation of a veteran- or disabled-veteran-owned company as a misdemeanor. Additionally, deterring fraudulent impersonation will prevent the state from designating preferential status for contracts to non-veteran-owned businesses, saving valuable taxpayer dollars. The legislation will be authored by Senator Robert Adley.

Governor Jindal said, “Veteran status should not be threatened by fraudulent competition. Entities fraudulently posing as veteran-owned businesses dishonor the sacrifice of our servicemen and servicewomen. That’s why we’re pursuing legislation that will protect legitimate veteran-owned businesses from wrongdoers.”

Senator Robert Adley said, “Less than ten percent of our people are veterans. They hold a special place in our society and this legislation will not only protect them, but also honor them for their service.”

Second, Governor Jindal will pursue legislation to protect the sanctity of veterans’ funerals by establishing a protest-free perimeter. 

Over the last several years, certain organizations have gained national attention by protesting at funerals for service members. Currently, federal law provides for restrictions on these funeral disruptions by establishing a buffer zone around funeral and memorial services and routes. In 2006, then-Representative Francis Thompson authored legislation that prohibits disruptions and creates penalties for disruption, but does not create a defined buffer zone or specify how far protesters must stay away.

Last year, the United States Supreme Court, in Snyder v. Phelps, decided that in the interests of free speech, these protestors cannot be sued.  In his opinion for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts suggested that a proper response to these protests is general laws creating buffer zones around funeral and memorial services and routes, rather than empowering juries to punish unpopular speech.  Since this opinion, many other states and the federal government have enacted legislation to bolster or create buffer zones around funerals or memorial services that protect grieving families in their time of vulnerability.  

The Governor’s legislation will prohibit the disruptive protest of a religious service, funeral or memorial service within 500 feet of a funeral service and within 300 feet of access routes to funeral service areas.  This protective buffer zone will be effective from two hours before the service to two hours after the service. In addition, it will raise the fine for disruption of funeral and memorial services and routes from $100 to $500. The legislation will be authored by Representative Henry Burns and Senator Francis Thompson. 

Governor Jindal said, “Services that honor brave men and women who put their lives on the line for our country deserve the utmost respect. Individuals shouldn’t be afforded the opportunity to capitalize on a grieving family’s loss by dishonoring the memory of a loved one.”

“I am proud to continue helping our veterans. They deserve services that respect their sacrifice for our country, and this legislation will prohibit protests so that families can grieve and honor their lives in peace,” said Senator Francis Thompson. 

“Services for our fallen men and women should be focused on the sacrifice they gave for our country, not those who try to disrespect them by protesting,” said Representative Henry Burns.

“I want to thank Governor Jindal for putting forth this important legislation for Louisiana's veterans. I have personally seen military funerals protested, disgracing what should be a time of honor and mourning for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.  As a veteran of the United States Air Force, it makes me proud to live in a state where our heroes are given proper respect and are allowed to be honored with dignity,” said Anna Sanders, President of Women Veterans of Louisiana.

Charles E. Holdeman, Louisiana State Adjutant of Disabled American veterans said, “As a disabled veteran, I fully support Governor Jindal's legislation to help protect our veteran business owners and to keep sacred the funerals of our fallen heroes.  The men and women who served our state and our nation deserve our gratitude and I am thankful that Governor Jindal is always there to make sure veterans have strong support.”

Third, Governor Jindal will pursue legislation that will ensure active military and veteran offenders have improved access to specialized treatment services by determining military status earlier in the legal process.

Currently, there are a number of services available to active military and veterans through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, and non-profit organizations. When active military and veteran offenders, however, move through the Louisiana legal system, district judges, District Attorneys, and others may not know that the offender is or was part of the armed forces and that specialized treatment services are available.

This legislation will be authored by Senator A.G. Crowe. It was developed in collaboration with the Louisiana Supreme Court, Drug Court Program, District Judges Association, District Attorneys Association, Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement, and State Public Defender Board. It will require inquiry of offenders at arraignment and during pre-sentencing on whether he or she is active military or a veteran.  The legislation would allow verbal inquiry or a written form completed by the offender to protect the offender’s privacy. Louisiana would join other states, such as Texas and Florida that provide avenues to access treatment services for veteran defendants. Louisiana would also join states like Minnesota and New Hampshire to provide laws requiring inquiry into military service as a means of identifying treatment and services available to the defendant. 

This presents an opportunity to offer mental health and/or substance abuse treatment to offenders at various stages of the legal process if treatment is appropriate and more beneficial than prosecution and/or incarceration. Many of these offenders have mental health and substance abuse issues that may be related to their offense.  Thus, this legislation will take steps to tackle recidivism by providing avenues for veteran-specific rehabilitation and will complement the sentencing reform previously announced by Governor Jindal for non-violent, non-sex first and second drug offenders.

Senator A.G. Crowe said, “Allowing veteran defendants access to these key treatment programs is another way we can honor and respect their sacrifice to protect our nation. I am proud to author this legislation so we can further thank our veterans for fighting for our freedoms.” 

In support of the three legislative proposals announced by Governor Jindal, David LaCerte, Interim Secretary with the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs said, “Protecting veteran-owned businesses, safeguarding the integrity of military funerals, and encouraging utilization of military and veteran treatment programs for substance abuse and mental health are key issues that directly impact the service members and veterans who call Louisiana home.  These three pieces of legislation are paramount to furthering the quality of life for service members, veterans, and their families.  Thank you, Governor Jindal, for recognizing these important issues and for always taking a strong stance in support of our veterans.”

Previous actions the Governor has taken in support of veterans:
  • Governor Jindal signed legislation that allows an official “Veteran” designation on driver’s licenses for Louisiana veterans. Before the legislation, veterans had to carry cumbersome paperwork to show proof of their military service when applying for jobs or for discounts and services provided by retail stores. Now, all they need is their driver’s license. 
  • Governor Jindal signed legislation to ensure students who delay their TOPS award to serve in the military do not lose their eligibility for voluntarily reenlisting. 
  • Governor Jindal signed legislation streamlining professional licensing for military personnel and their spouses seeking employment in Louisiana, making it easier for them to find work. 
  • Governor Jindal signed an Executive Order that made Louisiana the third state to participate in the United States Army Partnership for Youth Success Program, encouraging employers, like the state of Louisiana, to recruit former Army active and reserve members.
  • Governor Jindal redirected the Louisiana Military Family Assistance Fund to the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs. Since that time, LDVA has awarded more than $350,000 in financial assistance to more than 2,500 Louisiana National Guardsmen and Reservists.
  • Governor Jindal created the Louisiana Veterans Honor Medal, and since 2009, nearly 35,000 medals have been awarded to Louisiana veterans.
  • Governor Jindal signed legislation to ensure veterans get the care they have earned by expanding the eligibility requirements of the Louisiana War Veterans Homes, allowing the state to serve a greater number of Louisiana veterans. Over 80,000 peacetime Louisiana veterans and their spouses are now eligible for service at the War Veterans Homes. 
  • Since 2008, the Jindal Administration has increased the presence of service offices by opening locations in every parish across the state.  These parish offices provide veterans with local access to trained Veterans Assistance Counselors who help veterans and their families secure the benefits they earned through their military service. 

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