The following is a release from the office of Sen. Carlo Leone:
After eight years of "select" temporary status, the General Assembly's Veterans' Affairs Committee was elevated today to permanent "standing" status for the 2013 Regular Legislative Session, and all legislative sessions thereafter. Committee Co-Chairmen Senator Carlo Leone (D-Stamford) and Rep. Jack Hennessy (D-Bridgeport) joined with legislative leadership, military veterans and veterans' advocates to make the announcement.
"Our nation's commitment to serve our veterans in their retirement is an ongoing and unending one, in recognition of the enormous sacrifices that we call upon them to make," said Senator Leone, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. "After many years, the Committee on Veterans' Affairs finally has a permanent status commensurate with such an important responsibility. This change has been very important to the veteran community, and I am excited we were able to accomplish the task for this new session. I personally want to thank Senator Williams and Senator Looney for their advocacy, as well as Speaker Sharkey and all of the veterans and advocates who worked hard for so many years to make this a reality."
Wednesday marked the first day of the 2013 Session of the General Assembly. At the beginning of the session, both the House of Representatives and the Senate voted to adopt rules elevating the Veterans' Affairs Committee to permanent "standing" status. Since its creation in 2005, the committee had to date only been designated a temporary "select" status.
"Select" committees may not bring bills directly to the floor of either chamber of the legislature. Such bills must first be taken up and passed in another committee, then brought to the floor by the other committee's chairperson. Bills introduced in "standing" committees do not face these same requirements.
"I am pleased we are conveying this strong message to all of our veterans and active service members that we believe the Committee on Veterans Affairs should have the authority to move legislation," said Rep. Hennessy, himself a veteran of the U.S. Army. "I thank the veterans, advocates and House and Senate leaders for making sure that from this point on we may properly represent veterans in the State Legislature."
The decision to elevate the Veterans' Affairs Committee to "standing" status was arrived at in a bipartisan manner, with broad support amongst legislators of both parties.
"Our veterans have dedicated so much of themselves in service of our country," said Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams, Jr. (D-Brooklyn). "The elevation of the Veterans' Affairs Committee to full committee status reflects the legislature's commitment to helping our veterans transition home and find meaningful employment."
"We must always stand in support of our soldiers and veterans," added House Speaker Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden). "Our state is the proud home to many veterans from each of the branches of our Armed Forces, and it is appropriate to have a full standing committee dedicated to assisting them."
Senator Jason Welch (R-Bristol) has served in both the United States Coast Guard Reserve and Army National Guard.
"Allowing the Veterans' Affairs Committee equal standing in the legislative process simply makes sense," he said. "Our veterans are facing some very difficult issues unique to those who are active military and those who have served. As a member of the committee charged with overseeing public policy related to veterans, I am pleased to see our general assembly take this important step. I would like to extend my thanks to Senate Minority Leader John McKinney and to Senate Minority Leader Pro-Tempore, and Veterans Affairs committee member, Len Fasano for their strong support in this ongoing effort. It's our obligation to look out for those who serve their country."