House and Senate Democratic Leaders announced a legislative agenda today aimed at keeping Iowa’s leadership position on issues affecting veterans and active duty Iowa soldiers. Democrats pledged to enact new protections for military families and to continue the multi-year, multi-million dollar expansion of the Iowa Veterans Home.

“The burdens military families bear for the rest of us are significant,” said State Representative Ray Zirkelbach, who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee and is a veteran of the Iraq War. “This year, Legislative Democrats will make military relocations easier for the ‘trailing spouses’ in military families. We will do this by providing unemployment benefits for spouses who must leave their jobs, protecting them from withdrawal penalties if they must leave college mid-term, and directing state agencies to help them transfer teaching certificates or professional certifications to their new home state.”

“As thousands of families prepare for the largest deployment in Iowa history later this year, we should do all we can to make the transition easier for National Guard members and families,” State Senator Steve Warnstadt of Sioux City, a member of the Senate Veterans Committee and a Colonel in the Iowa National Guard. “Despite these tough budget times, we will continue our work to make the Iowa Veterans Home one of the best in the nation. In addition, we will make sure veterans don’t have to pay state income taxes on benefits they receive the Veterans Trust Fund.”

Last year, the Legislature created new incentives for employers to hire workers who are also soldiers [SF 197] and provided mortgage foreclosure protection to all Iowans on active-duty [HF 706]. The Legislature also increased the National Guard Benefit program to more than $4 million and took steps to help the children of military families to succeed in school despite frequent moves [HF 214].

The House Veterans Affairs Committee approved the unemployment measure for military spouses, House Study Bill 538, on a party-line vote on Tuesday. Last year, Democrats rejected Republican opposition to renovate and expand the Iowa Veterans Home.