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WASHINGTON — A movement to get all 50 states to enact financial aid measures for Guardsmen and reservists called to active duty got a boost Wednesday when one of its key proponents testified before Congress.

Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn was among the first to propose a “Military Family Relief Trust Fund” which was signed into law in February 2003.

Since then the state “has paid out $1.3 million to 2,500 families — so far,” Quinn said in a Tuesday telephone interview.

With more than 150,000 Guard and Reserve members activated in the war on terrorism, the House Committee on Veterans held the hearing to examine federal laws protecting those servicemembers’ legal, financial and job rights while they are away and when they return.

In addition to any federal efforts, 13 states are pursuing legislation [see sidebar].

Quinn and others want laws such as those that would prevent schools from charging out-of-district rates for children who have moved in with caregivers when a parent, perhaps a single parent, is called up.

He also is pursuing a public education campaign, citing abuses by employers who are unaware of the law, or unwilling to follow it.

“We want to make sure shop foremen, line supervisors and others understand that when one of their employees is called up, when they come back, they have a job” or are not otherwise penalized, Quinn said.

He cited the town of Rockton, Ill., which has terminated Spc. Jeremiah Johnson of the 333rd Military Police Co., serving in Iraq.

“The intend to test the law,” Quinn said. “We’ve called the mayor, the City Council, the police chief … we’ve asked them repeatedly to comply with state and federal law,” he said. The Illinois attorney general has filed suit on behalf of Johnson.

But the focus is on the trust funds, Quinn said.

“You’re always going to have a situation where [a deploying reservist’s] pay is reduced. Our concept in Illinois is that this is a token of appreciation,” he said. “Anyone can apply for a $500 grant, and if there’s a hardship — your gas is turned off, you’re defaulting on the mortgage — then we can give you as much as $2,000.”

Quinn quotes Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address when pushing legislation: “[L]et us strive on … to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and orphan.”

Servicemembers and concerned citizens can go to www.operationhomefront.org for more information.

At the state level ...

California:Bill 1928 passed the House and went to the Senate. On May 13, the bill was referred to the Revenue and Taxation Committee. The original bill was amended to exclude the Reserve. Passed out of Revenue and Taxation on June 9 and referred to appropriations. Appropriations hearing date is Monday.

Connecticut:Raised Bill 317 establishes the Connecticut National Guard Relief Account, and places a check-off on tax return. On March 9 the bill was referred to appropriations committee.

Iowa:Senate file 428 and House file 522 are both in committee.

Maine:Bill has passed both the House and Senate and was signed by the governor on May 11.

Missouri:SB.1336 passed the Senate and is in the House.

Michigan:Introduced HB.5953 in the House, was to go to committee on Tuesday.

Minnesota:House Bill HF.2817 was introduced March 8 to establish a tax check-off to fund grants for National Guard and Reserve called to active duty. Bill referred to Committee on Taxes, March 10.

New York:Sen. Larkin introduced S.6627 with 22 co-sponsors in the Senate. Referred to Committee on Rules. House bill has passed.

North Carolina:House bill 1481 to establish tax check-off box to fund Soldiers and Airmen Assistance Fund. Referred to Rules committee May 17.

Pennsylvania:HB.2509 introduced in the House and referred to finance committee.

Rhode Island:Bill H.7834 has passed out of the House.

South Carolina:Bill S0767 Passed the Senate and House.

Wyoming:SF.0059 was signed by the governor on March 9. Wyoming has paid out $35,000 to 15 families as of June 8.

Source: Office of Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn. Status is as of Tuesday.

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