Beaufort News

General Assembly works to show military appreciation

The month of November brings us one of the most important dates on the American calendar when we all pause to reflect upon what we owe to the brave men and women who have worn the uniforms of the United States armed services.

Last week, we celebrated Veterans' Day, a holiday of special significance here in Beaufort and throughout South Carolina given our large population of retired veterans and our crucial military installations like Marine Recruit Depot Parris Island, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and Naval Hospital Beaufort.

On this important occasion, I wanted to share with you some of the legislation that the General Assembly crafted this year to honor our veterans and serve our military families during a time when the brave members of our armed forces are being deployed on a daily basis to face danger on our behalf all around the globe.

This year, the General Assembly revised our property tax exemption allowed for recipients of the Medal of Honor and prisoners of war in certain conflicts so as to specify that the exemption applies to all our state's Medal-of-Honor recipients regardless of the conflict involved or when the medal was awarded.

In addition, we approved legislation authorizing South Carolina to join the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. The compact aims to remove barriers to educational success imposed on children of military families because of frequent moves and deployment of their parents by enhancing the transfer of education records and improving coordination among member states. This ensures different attendance requirements and methods of scheduling, sequencing, grading, course content and assessment will not place children of military families at a disadvantage when they must relocate.

Lawmakers also enhanced provisions that allow members of the U.S. armed services stationed in South Carolina, and their dependents, to receive in-state tuition rates at our colleges and universities. Under the previous law, whenever armed services personnel were transferred away from South Carolina, any dependents attending a state institution of higher learning would immediately lose their eligibility for favorable in-state tuition rates. The newly enacted law allows eligibility to extend beyond the time of military reassignment so long as the dependent remains continuously enrolled at the state institution or transfers to another eligible institution in a timely manner.

To eliminate one of the burdens falling upon our military families, the General Assembly provided for the waiver of power-of-attorney filing fees for combat-deployed members of the armed forces as they comply with legal requirements before deployment.

A legislative study committee for Veterans' Affairs was established this year and charged with projecting the veteran population in South Carolina during the next 20 years, examining veterans' access to existing nursing facilities and adult day care facilities, studying the advisability and feasibility of constructing an additional state veterans' nursing home, and determining how the state should proceed to generate maximum use of state tax revenue for the benefit of veterans. The committee must issue a written report of its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly and the governor by April 1, at which time the committee shall be dissolved.

As the daughter of a U.S. Army veteran, I am humbled and honored to serve those who so unselfishly give of themselves to preserve the freedoms of our great nation.

Rep. Shannon S. Erickson serves South Carolina House District 124 in Beaufort County. You can contact her at 843-263-1867.