Sen. L’Italien is a strong advocate of veterans and has a clear record of successfully pushing legislation to help vets and securing funding for groups that serve our treasured heroes. She and her staff also organized a very successful personal supplies drive for vets in need that included collecting stockpiles of donations from local schools and town halls in all four of her communities for local nonprofits that serve vets including New England Veterans Liberty House in Lawrence and the Tewksbury Food Panty. (Photo below shows the senator’s staff with all the donations collected for veterans at Sen. L’Italien’s 2015 holiday party at The Claddaugh Restaurant in Lawrence). The effort included a fundraising drive in partnership with TJ Callahans in Tewskbury.
Sen. L’Italien also sponsored a successful amendment to the 2017 state budget to send $75,000 to New England Veterans Liberty House, and she regularly attends and speaks at veterans service fairs in her district aimed at helping vets find jobs, housing and other vital services.
Here are some key bills supported by Sen. L’Italien and passed by the Legislature since Sen. L’Italien joined the Senate two years ago.
VETERANS HOME ACT 2016
This new law helps veterans by improving their access to housing and education and protecting them from discrimination. Provisions include establishing the new Office of State Veterans’ Homes and Housing; giving veterans preference in public housing; allowing cities and towns to permit property taxpayers to check off a box on their property-tax bill and donate money, above their tax liability, to help local veterans with food, transportation, heat and oil expenses; and making all children of prisoners of war eligible for the Public Service Scholarship. Currently, the scholarship is limited to children of the Vietnam War POWs; this legislation would extend eligibility to all children of POWs.
STOLEN VALOR ACT 2015
This new Massachusetts statute makes it a crime for a person to falsely claim that they are in the military or a veteran. The misdemeanor is punishable by a $1,000 fine, a year in the house of correction or both.
The Massachusetts law goes further than the federal Stolen Valor Act, because it prohibits a person from wearing a military uniform, awards or decorations that one has not earned, to use fake military identification or to falsely claim to be a military member or veteran “with the intent to obtain money, property or another tangible benefit.”
AN ACT RELATIVE TO VETERAN GRAVE MARKERS
The Senate in 2015 passed prohibiting the unauthorized sale of veterans’ grave markers in Massachusetts. Under existing state law, it is not illegal to sell stolen grave markers from a veteran’s grave. The new law includes a fine of up to $5,000 and the possibility of jail time for convicted repeat offenders.
Sen. I’Italien is also working on bipartisan bill with a constituent, Janice McCarthy of Andover, and Rep. Jim Lyons, Rep. Tucker and Rep. Whelan to help increase awareness and training for police officers about PTSD, mental illness and suicide. Many police officers are veterans, so this is important for both groups.