By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama Senate passed the Parks for Patriots Act on Thursday giving veterans of the armed forces free admission to Alabama State Parks.
The bill was part of a package of five bills to support military veterans passed Thursday, which Gov. Kay Ivey proclaimed was “Military Appreciation Day” in Montgomery.
House Bill 58, the Parks for Patriots Act, was sponsored by state Rep. Dickie Drake, R-Leeds, and passed the House in January. Ivey declared free admission for veterans starting on November 1. This bill makes what has been an executive policy decision actual law. The bill now goes to the governor.
“More than 50,000 Alabamians serve in the military or work as employees of the Department of Defense, and it is appropriate and right that we honor their heroism and service,” Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, said. “Veterans from Alabama have fought honorably in numerous wars, defending this nation from Nazi fascists and now, radical Islamic terrorists.”
“As veterans return from battlefields in the Middle East and across the globe, it is our privilege to open every door of opportunity we can for our veterans, so that Alabama can benefit from their leadership and tenacity,” Reed said.
“Like all Alabamians, I am thankful for the service of our retired and active military service members,” Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said. “Facilities like the Anniston Army Depot are essential for our national defense and a huge engine of economic growth in Alabama – and I am grateful for the opportunity the Legislature has to support the men and women who wear the uniform and serve Alabama and our nation so well.”
The Senate also approved a tax credit for small businesses that hire unemployed veterans, created a voluntary contribution check-off on income tax returns for the Alabama State Veterans Cemetery at Spanish Fort, added Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who own businesses to the preferred vendor list for state contracts, and passed a bill that would make it illegal to park a vehicle in spaces reserved for military veterans.
The Legislature also held a joint session of the House and Senate honor General Gus F. Perna, the commander of the U.S. Army Materiel Command in Huntsville and Alabama’s only four-star general. Perna is one of just twelve active four star generals in the U.S. Army.
Perna praised the state of Alabama and said that the soldiers from the state of Alabama are raised physically and morally fit and volunteer to put themselves in harms way in service to the country. There are over 350,000 veterans living in Alabama.
Perna, who is originally from New Jersey, is serving for the second time in Alabama, and announced that he has bought a home on Smith Lake and plans to spend the rest of his life living in Alabama when his career ends.
Since Sept. 11, 2011, more than 25,000 Alabama National Guard soldiers and airmen have deployed, and approximately 1,000 are currently deployed.
Thursday was the twelfth day of the 2018 session. The state constitution sets the maximum number of legislative days in the regular session at 30.
Senator Jim McClendon, R-Springville, said that there is talk that the legislature might leave early this year without using all thirty of the days. The House has already passed the education trust fund budget and the Senate has passed the state general fund budget out of committee. The two budgets are the only constitutionally required functions of the legislative session.