House, Senate committees approve ‘PA GI Bill’ providing college grants for state National Guard families

    Rep. Steve Barrar, R-Delaware, speaks on the PA GI Bill (Capital-Star photo by John L. MIcek)

    Oversight committees in the state House and Senate on Tuesday approved legislation providing college grants to the spouses and family members of Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers who agree to reenlist.

    The House and Senate bills “provide financial assistance for up to 10 semesters, or five years’ equivalent of the in-state rate of PA State System of Higher Education schools,” Gov. Tom Wolf’s office said in a statement.

    The proposal was part of Wolf’s February budget address.

    The legislation will “enable the National Guard service members to transfer education benefits or defer the benefit by designating eligible beneficiaries up to the time that they complete their Guard service. And spouses will be eligible to use the educational benefit immediately or up to six years after the service member separates from the Guard,” Wolf’s office said.

    The legislation is formally known as the “Pa. National Guard Military Family Education Program,” but is commonly called the “PA GI Bill” — a reference to the post-World War II law that allowed thousands of returning servicemen to go to college.

    The Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness committees in the House and Senate each unanimously approved the proposals.

    “With my own military background, I know how important it is to value the men and women who step up to the plate and commit to defending the country we are all blessed to call home if we want them to continue making such tremendous sacrifices for all of us,” House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Barrar, R-Delaware, said in a statement accompanying the panel’s vote. “It is my honor to offer this bill, and I look forward to its swift passage through the House.”

    The bills were the subject of a state Capitol press conference earlier in the day on Tuesday.”It’s not only a pro-education bill, it’s a pro-families bill,” Allegheny County Sen. Lindsey Williams, the ranking Democrat on the Senate veterans’ panel, said. “Our Guardsmen and women make so many sacrifices. But so do their families. This legislation honors their commitment.”

    An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.

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