LEGION-RELATED LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS
2012 Congressional Election Recap
Twenty-one of 22 incumbent senators were re-elected to the Senate and 353 of 373 incumbent representatives in the House of Representatives were re-elected. Thus, for the 113th Congress, the American people voted back in 94% of the incumbent politicians who were running for re-election.
Work Opportunity Training Credit Update:
The Department of Labor is drafting a “Training and Employment Guidance Letter” or “TEGL” for Work Opportunity Training Credit (WOTC) Regional and State WOTC Coordinators dealing with issuance of worker eligibility certifications to employers so they may claim WOTC on their tax returns.
The TEGL will require issuance of eligibility certifications for workers hired in 2012 and 2013 from the WOTC target groups of current law. Certifications for hires of disabled and recently discharged veterans added to WOTC by the VOW to Hire Heroes Act (Public Law 112-056) will continue to be acted on for new hires in 2013 in the same manner as 2012.
A TEGL must undergo a departmental review before it I s issued, which takes time. The American Legion was advised not to expect the TEGL before early March.
In the meantime, employers should follow the usual WOTC procedures for new hires during 2013, as the renewed WOTC is the same as the prior program, with the VOW Act veterans’ categories added.
For VOW Act veterans hired during 2012, issuance of eligibility certifications took place as received, so the bulk of those certifications have already been issued to employers.
The Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor are discussing a rule allowing employers in the Hurricane Sandy area additional time beyond the required 28 days for filing requests for certification of eligible workers.
Clark Air Force Base Veterans Cemetery Addressed by New Law
One of the legislative successes of the last Congress was the unanimous passage in both chambers of the Dignified Burial and Other Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2012. The bill was enacted by the President on January 10 as Public Law 112-260. This law directs the transfer and restoration of Clark Veterans Cemetery in the Philippines to the American Battle Monuments Commission once an agreement is reached between the United States and Philippines governments concerning the cemetery. The cemetery is the relocated home for soldiers who had previously rested at Fort McKinley. Thousands of American soldiers and civilians are buried there, but cemetery upkeep has been a struggle due to lack of funding and no clear ownership. In addition to the transfer of Clark Veterans Cemetery, the law requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to furnish caskets for deceased veterans lacking both identifiable next-of-kin and sufficient resources.
Stolen Valor Legislation Introduced
On January 15, Rep. Joe Heck (NV) introduced H.R. 258, the Stolen Valor Act of 2013. The legislation already has 69 cosponsors. The measure would address a 2012 Supreme Court decision – United States v. Alvarez – which held that the earlier Stolen Valor Act passed in 2006 (Public Law 109-437) was too vague.
H.R. 258 would amend the federal criminal code to rewrite provisions relating to fraudulent claims about military service to subject to a fine, imprisonment for not more than one year, or both an individual who, with intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit, fraudulently holds himself or herself out to be a recipient of:
· A Congressional Medal of Honor,
· A Distinguished Service Cross,
· A Navy Cross,
· An Air Force Cross,
· A Silver Star,
· A Purple Heart,
· A Combat Infantryman's Badge,
· A Combat Action Badge,
· A Combat Medical Badge,
· A Combat Action Ribbon,
· A Combat Action Medal, or
· Any replacement or duplicate medal for such medal as authorized by law.
LEGISLATIVE DIVISION ACTIONS
Legislative Staff Begins Building Relationships on Capitol Hill
Over the past two weeks, Legislative Division staff members have been delivering packets to the newly-elected members of Congress. These packets contained a personalized welcome letter, a drop sheet of our organization’s legislative priorities, a pamphlet outlining the Legislative Division’s Guiding Resolutions, and a DVD. These packets were hand-delivered in order that the Legislative staff could introduce themselves, and begin to develop working relationships with the new congressional staff members.
Preparations for Washington Conference Going Forward
The Legislative Division is working diligently to prepare for the upcoming Washington Conference, being held February 25-27. Legion Family members will converge on our nation’s capital for meetings, conferences, workshops, and the like to continue the work of The American Legion.
The Legislative Division will be in charge of the “Commander’s Call” on Tuesday morning February 26. The agenda is still being developed, and prospective speakers are being considered. Legislative Commission Chairman Ken Governor (NY) is coming to Washington in two weeks to work with staff to prepare the agenda.
American Legion Legislative Council
The Legislative Division continues the task of re-building the membership of the National Legislative Council for the 113th Congress. Council recommendation forms were emailed to Department leadership in December, asking for nominations for new congressional members. Completed forms were due in the Legislative Division offices in Washington, DC by January 18. To date, 18 Departments have returned their Council nomination forms.
The importance of the Legislative Council cannot be minimized. It is the voice of The American Legion family, and the way in which members of Congress can be quickly contacted when legislative action is needed. Departments are urged to complete their nomination forms and return them to the Legislative Division offices as soon as possible.
Update on Flag Amendment Bills
Senate Joint Resolution (S.J. Res.) 19 and House Joint Resolution (H.J. Res.) 13 expired at the end of the 112th Congress. This legislation, a proposed constitutional amendment to protect the American flag from physical desecration, will need to be re-introduced in the 113th Congress. Its text states simply: “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.”
The Legislative Division has begun the task of finding new sponsors and cosponsors for this legislation. Please contact your representative’s and senators’ offices, and ask them to become sponsors of the flag amendment in their respective chambers.