We’re proud of our veterans and as a state, we do all we can to support them in every way possible. This year, the state legislature passed a number of bills to help these courageous men and women and their families as well as honor, as best we can, the sacrifices of those who lay down their lives for our country.
There is nothing we can do or say to ever show our utmost respect, honor and gratitude to those soldiers who give the ultimate sacrifice in war. We do what we can by building memorials and holding special ceremonies - such small tokens of gratitude for such tremendous sacrifices, but it’s all we know how to do.
Losing a loved one is emotionally hard for families, but it can also cause a tremendous financial burden for them as well. In order to ensure that the children of veterans’ killed in service are taken care of and have the opportunity for a bright future, we passed HB 1343 this year. The measure became law when it was signed on May 20th. Children of military veterans killed in the line of duty or who died from injuries after January 1, 2000 will now be allowed to participate in the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP) and qualify for an award equivalent to resident tuition.
The veteran must have filed an Oklahoma income tax return for the year prior to death and the student must be a resident of the state or be enrolled in a school district in the state. The student must enroll in an institution within the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education prior to turning 21 and must satisfy admission standards for first-time-entering students. Students must enroll in an institution within the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, a postsecondary vocational-technical program approved for a cooperative program with the Oklahoma State System of Higher education or an Oklahoma private institution of higher learning. Students won’t be subject to the other qualification requirements of OHLAP. Students who don’t enroll until after they are 21 because of active duty military service will still be eligible.
Again, this won’t help ease the pain from losing their parent, but it will help them be able to pursue their dreams. As a state, we have to be there for these families and help lift them up in their time of need and ensure these children have every possible tool they need to succeed in life.
Another measure we passed will help make voting easier for military personnel stationed overseas. Our soldiers fight for freedom and one of our greatest freedoms is voting, so we need to ensure that they can easily exercise their right to vote and let their voice be heard even though they are so far away.
SB 115, which goes into effect November 1, creates the Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act, which directs the Secretary of the State Election Board to make available to covered voters information regarding voter registration procedures and procedures for casting military-overseas ballots and directs the Secretary to develop standardized absentee-voting materials, including a declaration form for use by a covered voter to affirm representations regarding the voter’s identity and eligibility to vote. The measure establishes procedures for registering to vote and for the processing of ballot applications and transmittal of ballots and repeals certain provisions related to implementation of the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986. The measure was necessary to protect the voting rights of our military men and women by ensuring state election law complies with federal law relating to voting practices for active duty military personnel.
I was proud of my fellow legislators for unanimously supporting these great measures and others. These are important bills that give our military personnel and families the respect, honor and acknowledgment they deserve for all they do for our country.
To contact me at the Capitol, please write to Senator Josh Brecheen, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 513A, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (405) 521-5586.