I went about three months without a post. During that time I’ve been busy both with work, and with my volunteer responsibilities with the VFW, the American Legion, and the Lone Star Veterans Association. One of my duties is as legislative chair for the American Legion posts in the Houston area, and the past six months have been occupied with the Texas legislative session. In March, I joined fellow Legionnaires in Austin for a day of briefing followed by two days of visiting the state representatives and senators from the Houston area (24 over the two days). The major bill of concern to us was SB1735, which would have gutted educational benefits promised to the state to veterans and their families. The legislature adjourned today, sine die, with no action on this. The Senate had approved the bill, 24-7, with the no votes coming entirely from Democrats, all but one of them Hispanics. The House rejected the Senate version, and retained protections for us. In conference committee, the lead senator refused to back down, and so the bill died. We had great leadership in Senators Menendez and Rodriguez, and Representatives Farias and Blanco. All articulated the concerns of the veterans groups, and asked tough questions we had not thought of.
The arguments went something like this. Texas needs to keep the promises it made to veterans. Neither we nor our children should have to do “community service,” as the Senate bill insisted–we have done it. The Texas legislature shouldn’t be talking about cutting our benefits when at the same time it is planning 4.5 billion dollars in tax cuts. And it is spending 800,000,000 on “border security,” without accountability. To this day recruiters for the Texas National Guard are enticing new recruits with the promises of Hazlewood benefits for veterans and their dependents–if Texas is making promises, it needs to keep them.
These were the arguments made. And our voice was heard.
It was particularly poignant that the House vote was Memorial Day weekend. The House decided that it dare not make such a vote at this time.
We won an important victory — but the battle will renew during the next legislative session in two years.