Calif. gov. signs 18 bills that benefit veterans

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – California veterans and their families will receive a slew of new state benefits – from cheaper college tuition to expedited vocational licenses – under a legislative package signed by Gov. Jerry Brown Thursday.

The Democratic governor said in a statement that the 18 bills “respect the honor and dignity of those who serve.”

He also took the opportunity to needle Congress about failing to work across party lines for the benefit of service members in a similar way.

“Yesterday, a bill to invest in job training for veterans was blocked because of Washington political infighting,” he said. “Here in California, Republicans and Democrats joined together to support our veterans.”

Among the bills signed into law are AB2371, which provides treatment for criminal defendants suffering from a mental illness acquired during military service, and SB1287, which grants injured veterans discounted fishing licenses.

Another, AB1505, says California will reinstate benefits for soldiers discharged from the military for being gay if the federal government does.

Many of the new laws involve higher education. One triples the number of years veterans are eligible for priority registration at public colleges. Another extends eligibility for in-state tuition.

Several establish new funding mechanisms for veterans’ services, including a new “support our troops” specialized license plate.

California National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. David Baldwin said the legislation shows the state is keeping its promises.

“This comprehensive package of legislation signed by Gov. Brown continues to demonstrate that California is fulfilling its obligation to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much,” he said in a statement.

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