Three bills coming up for the 2008 Legislature seek a tax break for retired military members, equal housing and employment opportunities for veterans and a day off for schools in recognition of Veterans Day.
Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, was contacted by a Riverton High School history teacher and invited to the school for a meeting with students about why schools don't take one day off in honor of Veterans Day. Wimmer was a little suspicious at first.
"OK, here's a group of kids who just want another day off from school," he thought.
But as Wimmer and the students talked, he realized that about two-thirds of them had family members or close friends who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
"That's when I realized this student population has been touched by war more so than any student population in decades," he said.
Wimmer has filed what will be a joint resolution to motivate the state school board to pass along to local school boards a directive to establish a day off on or around Veterans Day. Wimmer's father and three brothers, including one who served in Iraq, all have served in the military.
Rep. Steven Mascaro, R-West Jordan, said he'd like to see a tax exemption given for retirement income earned by former military members, who he noted already have paid taxes once on that money. Mascaro said he isn't sure yet what the fiscal impact of his bill toward that end would be. Mascara, who spent six years in the Marine Corps reserve from 1965-71, said he has put forward legislation in support of the military for a long time.
"Big soft spot for veterans and this is just a way of saying, 'Thanks,"' he said.
In an effort to avoid filing conflicting bills, Mascaro said he already has contacted another lawmaker who is drafting similar legislation, only the tax break there would be for income earned by active duty members.
The third bill is coming from Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake, who was inspired by a radio program around Veterans Day to make sure something was written into Utah law that protects military members coming back from active duty against discrimination as they seek employment or housing.Utah law already affords protection in those two areas under such headings as race, religion, color, sex and religion, but there's nothing there about veterans. He said the state's labor commission and Veterans Affairs officials are looking into how to draft the bill.