By David Levinsky Staff writer
TRENTON — Measures to help out-of-work veterans and veterans organizations were among the more than two dozen bills Gov. Chris Christie signed into law this week.
One bill requires the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services to automatically certify veterans as emergency medical technicians and mobile intensive-care paramedics if they received the equivalent training or experience in the military.
The measure was approved unanimously in the Senate and Assembly in June and was signed by Christie on Wednesday. It is intended to eliminate red tape for unemployed veterans in search of employment in emergency services, Assemblymen Herb Conaway and Troy Singleton said.
Both Democrats were among a host of lawmakers who sponsored the measure.
“This law extends an employment opportunity to veterans who have the skills that are necessary and required to work in emergency services,” said Conaway, D-7th of Delanco.
“The job of our military men and women is to protect and save lives. If they are not fit to work as emergency responders, I’m not sure who is,” added Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra.
The law goes into effect next March.
A second bill signed by Christie extends state unemployment benefits to ex-service members up to the 26-week limit in the event that their federal benefits expire before then, and exempts them from a state requirement that they must have worked at least 20 weeks or earned $7,300 in New Jersey before they become eligible for state unemployment benefits.
One of the measure’s sponsors, Sen. Jim Beach, D-6th of Voorhees, said granting the benefit is a small form of assistance the state can give to the men and women of the armed forces.
“We are indebted to our military personnel for their heroic service, and this is the least we can do to show our gratitude and support,” Beach said in a statement.
A third bill signed by the governor would permit nonprofit organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion to use proceeds from post lotteries, raffles, bingo nights and other games of chance to pay for organizational expenses if voters approve a change in the state constitution during the November election.
Under current law, those organizations are required to use the proceeds solely for charitable causes or educational programs.
Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego, one of more than 50 lawmakers to sponsor the bill, said granting the organizations the ability to use the gaming proceeds is crucial to keeping them financially solvent and active.
“We need to do all we can to ensure no veterans organization has to shut its doors, ending invaluable service programs to the public, all because they can no longer afford to pay their electric bill or basic costs of their facilities,” said Addiego, R-8th of Evesham. “This common-sense measure will provide additional means for nonprofit veterans organizations to raise the funds they need so they can remain a steadfast part of our communities.”
In addition to Addiego, the measure was co-sponsored by Sen. Diane Allen, R-7th of Edgewater Park; Chris Brown, R-8th of Evesham; Singleton; Conaway and Beach.
The new laws are among several pieces of legislation signed by Christie during the last year that are designed to assist veterans and military families. For example, he signed bills to create temporary teaching certificates and nursing licenses for the spouses of active-duty members who are transferred to New Jersey and hold valid out-of-state licenses. He also signed measures waiving the commercial driver’s license skills test for veterans with experience in operating commercial vehicles in the military, and creating a “Helmets to Hardhats” program at the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to help out-of-work veterans find jobs in the construction industry.