The WORD from Harrisburg-March 1st, 2007
The WORD from Harrisburg
By Rep. Jerry Stern (R-Blair)
Without a doubt, the people of our nation by and large have great respect and admiration for those who serve in our Armed Forces. We are in their debt for the sacrifices and courage it takes to defend this nation and its people and to help those around the world who cannot help themselves.
However, there are always a few people who choose to take their frustrations with our government and the politics of war out on those who are willing to answer the call to duty.
It was recently brought to my attention by a local resident, that during a rally in Washington, D.C. in support of the troops, that some veterans and soldiers were spit upon. This is not only disrespectful, but potentially physically harmful given the many diseases that can be transferred through bodily fluids.
Therefore, I am introducing legislation to make it a criminal act to harass a veteran or soldier serving in the Armed Forces. Pennsylvania has already made it illegal for prison inmates to harass correction officers, and I think it is only right to also make it illegal to permit that kind of behavior toward our nation’s heroes.
Specifically, the legislation will make it a third-degree felony for an individual to knowingly or intentionally throw, toss, spit or expel blood, seminal fluid, saliva, urine or feces at a person he or she knows or believes to be a soldier or veteran.
We owe our soldiers and veterans our gratitude and respect, as well as protection from any form of physical harassment. I look forward to great bipartisan support for this legislation.
I have also, once again, authored a bill to supplement the Armed Forces Loan Forgiveness Program provided by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA).
Although this legislation passed the House last session and has the support of the governor and the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, it did not gain approval in the Senate before the
session term ended. I am hopeful this legislation will gain the full support of both the House and Senate and be signed into law this year.
Pennsylvania has the largest National Guard contingent in the country, as well as a high number of active duty and reserve personnel. It is in our best interest to encourage continued educational pursuits in order to have the best trained and qualified military personnel possible.
Specifically, the bill covers the cost of accrued interest and defers loan payments for Pennsylvania National Guard members called to active duty for a state or national emergency. The interest on the loan would be paid by PHEAA.
Active duty personnel would have loan forgiveness begin with the time of their activation and end six months after their return to inactive duty or reserve duty status.
The Armed Forces Loan Forgiveness Program was originally established following the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, as a way to support those serving in the Armed Forces.
Rep. Jerry Stern
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Tricia Lehman
House Republican Public Relations
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 1, 2007