veterans bills

Legislator sponsoring significant military bills in committee Tuesday were, top row from left, Rep. Susan Lontine, Rep. Dennis Hisey, Sen. Nancy Todd, Rep. Richard Holtorn; second row from left, Rep. Lois Landgraf, Rep. Marc Catlin; third row, Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg; fourth row from left, Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, Rep. Terri Carver, Sen. Pete Lee and Rep. Tony Exum.

Colorado Springs area legislators led the way on bills that could do a lot for the state's military members: lifting their pay in an emergency, caring for veterans and honoring those who serve their cause.

Senate Bill 91 would raise the pay of the National Guard from $20 a day to $88 a day. House Bill 1220 would provide a needs assessment at the state's community living centers. Both passed the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee unanimously Tuesday. 

The pay bill is sponsored by Democratic Rep. Tony Exum and Republican Rep. Richard Holtorf of Washington County.

Sponsors in the upper chamber are Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling and Democratic Sen. Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada. 

Exum pointed out in a statement that $20 for a 12-hour day on the front lines of fires and floods works out to$1.67 an hour.

"That is unacceptably low," he stated. "As a former firefighter, I am appalled that we ask our fellow Coloradans to put themselves in harm's way for such a low wage. This bill would more than triple the minimum daily pay, and I’m proud to see it move forward.”

The House bill on the state's five veterans homes is led by Sen. Pete Lee, a Democrat from Colorado Springs, with Reps. Marc Snyder, a Democrat from Manitou Springs, and Terri Carver, a Republican from Colorado Springs.

“Our region is home to one in four veterans in our state, and many are older veterans who rely on the services provided by veterans community living centers,” Snyder said in a statement Tuesday. “We must ensure that Colorado veterans have access to the state services they need. This bill will take a deep dive into the services provided by veterans community living centers across the state, and it will help us improve how our state delivers these critical services.”

The five community living centers are in Aurora, Florence, Monte Vista, Rifle and Walsenburg.

Additionally on Wednesday, the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee passed Senate Bill 82 to create a medal called the Colorado Legion of Merit, to be awarded by the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to those who render "service in a clearly exceptional, unprecedented, or superior manner."

The bill is sponsored by Denver Democratic Rep. Susan Lontine and Fountain Republican Rep. Lois Landgraf, as well as Sens. Nancy Todd, a Democrat from Aurora, and Dennis Hisey, a Republican from Fountain.

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